I just read a great blog post about an experience Justin Fox (Harvard Business Review Group) had with the company e-Fax. Here’s a link to the post.
Basically, it’s a story of a company that won’t allow you to cancel an account until you’ve run an unpleasant gauntlet of high-pressure tactics to get you to stay on with them. If you refuse to play this game with them, they refuse to cancel your account, and just keep billing you. It is, unfortunately, not a unique tactic in today’s hyper-competitive world. It does, however, speak volumes about the organizations that employ it.
Here’s the deal: customers defect from companies for a number of reasons – Pricing, Convenience, Quality, etc – but study after study tells us that the dominant cause of customer defection is lousy customer service. In its simplest terms, customers leave you because at some level, they believe you’ve stopped caring about them. High pressure tactics, such as the ones employed by eFax and so many other organizations do nothing to change that perception. In fact, they only reinforce that these companies care only about your credit card.
I remember an old-time sales guy once explaining his selling approach to me: That he would persist and push until customers either buy from him or detest him so much they would never buy from him. Fortunately, these types of salespeople have mostly gone the way of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, some people in some companies still believe there’s value to this approach when it comes to service recovery.
They just don’t get it, and probably never will.