More than ever, consumers are interested in their credit scores and credit reports. They ask questions when banking, paying bills online and shopping for a loan. This puts pressure on lenders to equip their employees with good answers to such questions. (myFICO.com is one source for those answers.) Unfortunately, this work is made tougher when credible sources get even the simplest points wrong and confuse everyone.
In October, an article posted on Forbes.com contained the headline “10 Ways a Bad Credit Score Can Hurt You.” As I read through the “ten ways,” I realized that credit scores were cited in only five of them. Fully half of the article focused on credit reports, not credit scores. The publication made the same mistake again this month in a new article “Should Your Credit Rating Scare You?”
This isn’t just a semantics issue. Such mistakes lead consumers to incorrectly assume that credit reports and credit scores are synonymous, or that credit reports automatically include credit scores. Journalists tell us that people frequently complain to them that the credit reports they get free on www.annualcreditreport.com are missing the credit score. People also contact credit bureaus to dispute their credit score, rather than information in their credit report. As you may be aware, federal law protects the right of anyone to see and dispute their credit report information, but not predictive scores or other tools that have been based on that information.
No one confuses the raw ingredients for a chocolate cake with the aromatic product fresh from the oven. They shouldn’t confuse the raw credit account data reported by lenders with the FICO® Score fresh from the algorithm. But many do. And when that confusion leads bank customers to challenge their banks over, say, the credit scores disclosed in risk-based pricing notices, this kind of misunderstanding can damage customer trust and ultimately their loyalty.
The solution? Make sure people in your organization are equipped with good answers to common consumer questions, starting with the difference between credit scores and credit reports. As teachers know, repetition from respected sources increases retention and trust. And developing informed, trusting consumers is a great way to grow your market.