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Don’t waste a single interaction


Last week I had to get on the phone to cancel an online service.

Not because I wanted to use the phone to cancel, but because it’s a requirement.

You see, you can sign up for this service online, but you can’t cancel it there. And you certainly won’t be doing it easily.

Yes, you read that right. You can sign up online, but canceling requires a phone call.

That’s so “Business can do no wrong, 1999” kind of thinking.

It reminds me of the old America Online (AOL). This is how they used to act. Butâ?¦

There ARE good reasons to require a call

I could see good reason for the call if they truly wanted to check to make sure that I couldn’t use their service. Obviously, that assumes that they’d put effort into making it a pain-free process to find out my situation.

Possible situations:

  • Maybe I couldn’t figure it out.
  • Maybe I found something better.
  • Maybe it wasn’t what I thought it was or didn’t do what I really needed (that vague thing called “merchantability”).

If I’m the vendor interested in improving my offering, I’d want to know those things when my service is getting cancelled by someone.

Why? Because that info will help me do a better job of selling my service in the future. It will also help me adjust who I market the service to and what it does.

A quick call for stuff like this is often faster and more productive for everyone but you have to make it fast, easy and pleasant. It’s a good time to leave a last good impression in a relationship that just didn’t work out (for now), and if time permits, ask what kind of changes would provoke the person to sign up again at a later date.

Hassle your customers

But that isn’t why I had to call them.

I had to call them because they intentionally designed a process to be more difficult than it was to sign up. They wanted it to be “work”, in hopes that I wouldn’t cancel and would just blow it off.

I know this because of what happened when I called.

First, I spent 12 minutes on hold. Overall, that’s not a huge deal because I put my phone on speaker and sat it on my desk, but it does indicate the importance they place on these calls. Or it shows that a TON of people are cancelling. Or both.

During the cancel process – in fact – during the very first interaction with the phone agent, I was asked if I wanted to purchase a “buy one, get one free” airline ticket.

I was so stunned by the out-of-context request, I had to ask him to repeat himself. I just couldn’t believe it.

Rest assured, there’s no relationship *at all* between air travel and what this online service provides. So why are they trying to sell me an airline ticket? Dumb.

Remember, all this lameness happened after 12 minutes on hold.

But they weren’t done. After all that, a six question survey about my satisfaction which should have been done by the agent, who didn’t even ask why I was cancelling. Otherwise, why make me call?

3 of the questions follow:

  • Would I recommend them? No. (An agent could have asked “Why not?”)
  • Rate the call wait time. (Your phone system knows how long I waited. Common sense will give you all the rating you need. It’s a feel-good question to allow me to vent.)
  • Do I feel valued as a customer? No. No. No. (Sorry, the airline ticket question failed to cement our love affair.)

Just in case there’s some doubt about how I feel about this kind of behavior: If this is how you treat your clients and this is how you do business, I hope your competition hires me to relieve you of those pesky customers you treat so poorly. I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

The lesson

Every interaction you have with a customer – no matter how trivial – is an opportunity to reinforce their impression of you (positively, I hope).

Don’t waste ANY of them on stupid, wasteful interactions like this one.