"Customer Service" or "Customers Serve Us?"

A follow up to a previous post about customer service - below are a few more experiences that definitely go in the "don’t do" column of how to successfully market your company, product, or service…..


Have you ever tried to cancel a service on the Internet?  You know, cancelling things like phone, cable/satellite TV, or any of the myriad SaaS services available to consumers or businesses.  In the past few weeks, I have made several attempts to cancel or change services and this is what I found.


Popular SaaS – this is truly unbelievable.  About a year ago, I signed up for an online business service. "Sign up" was a piece of cake – put your credit card in and off you go.  The service was charged monthly. I no longer have a need for the service, so I tried to cancel it. I went to the company web site and found the "Manage my Account" type function. I filled out the form saying I wanted to close my account. Instead of actually being able to close the account – this is the response I got by email the next day – "Thank you for contacting XXX Customer Support. We are happy to assist you, however prior to moving forward I would like to review your account with you – please contact me at the number below or provide a phone number and convenient time to reach you."  They actually expected me to call them and explain why I wanted to cancel the service! Since I was anxious to cancel the service, I did call them during business hours and I got…. voice mail. I rerouted the operator and also got… voice mail. I tried this for two days and finally sent an email back, saying I didn’t want to talk to anyone, just to cancel my account. A day or two later I got an email acknowledging the cancellation – no phone call needed. How excited am I ever going to be about doing business with this company again?  And it wasn’t because of the actual business – it was do to their "customers serve-us" attitude.


Mobile phone – I tried to make changes to my current service plans with two "leading" providers of mobile phone service. This is what I found – almost impossible to find a way to do it on the web. I ended up calling them both on the customer service line.


Company A was pretty easy to get a hold of – no ½ hour wait on the line and no offshore call centers with poor English. Rolling back the mobile service plan to a lower cost plan was pretty straightforward and was completed in under 10 minutes. 


Company B – totally different story. Again, short wait on the line, and definitely an on-shore rep answered the phone. However, no matter how adamant I was about wanting to cancel the service, the rep just wouldn’t take "no" for an answer. I explained in very clear terms why I was changing the service – it didn’t help. Even after several rounds of "I just want to cancel the service" – I got "well, why don’t you transfer the account to someone else?" It took almost 20 minutes to finally get what I wanted. Now I can understand why a company would want to try and convince customers to stick with their service – marketers clearly know the rule about the cost of new customer acquisition as opposed to doing business with existing clients, but the rub is that I didn’t hear a single item in those 20 minutes that would have even remotely caused me to stay with the provider. The "arguments" to stay with the company included – "You know we have better coverage than our competitor," or "I can cut you back to a lower cost plan" – these were totally unrelated to my reason for cancelling my service. I told the rep that because of changes in my job responsibilities, I no longer needed the phone. Period. Why would I need a lower cost plan or care that the competitor’s coverage was not as good?


Now, what is it with these companies that think they can coerce customers to not cancelling service? I was not even dissatisfied with any of the services I was cancelling or changing – I just didn’t need them anymore. In the age of blogging and social networking where reputations are hard to maintain in the face of bad service, do companies really think they can keep customers by making it "hard for them to quit?"


The message here is that your company needs to provide customer service - not "customers serve-us." Particularly in a world of SaaS, where customers are transient by nature – service should be transparent, sign up should be easy, the service should be easy to use, and service cancellation should equally as easy. And let the best provider win!


If you are interested in knowing who these companies were – drop me a line.

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