How A Customer Departs Can Determine If They Will Return

Should aggressive customer retention efforts be executed while a customer is actively trying to no longer be a customer…or postponed until the emotion and passion of “checking out” have died down?

There are certainly tangible administrative and economical advantages to finding a way to retain a customer at the very moment they are notifying you – for whatever reason – they no longer wish to receive your product or service. But consider the alternative…allowing them to EzPass their way out of the relationship in a professional, dignified manner…and then revisiting them when their anger, frustration, etc. have been allowed to dissipate.

My example from this very morning…

I have subscribed for the last six years or so to a publication called USA Today Sports Weekly. Perhaps you have seen it on newsstands or even on-line. It is a weekly mini-newspaper highlighting pro baseball and football. All of the info within is admittedly readily available on the Internet in electronic format. I am a dinosaur who likes the “feel” and “availability” of a newspaper. I still buy as many as four newspapers a day at our local convenience store (including USA Today!), even while working on the ‘net all day long. Grew up with newspapers. Went to school for Journalism. Set in my ways.

I never have understood home delivery of papers in our urban surroundings, especially when I see deliveries on lawns with the sprinklers operating, deliveries sporting tire tracks in roadways, etc. Yes, I always have gone and gotten my newspapers. I like my newspapers dry with no humidity…no trauma…no drama.

Got a letter two weeks ago indicating the USA Today Sports Weeklywhich I have gotten delivered via U.S. Mail in my mail box all these years – was now able to “offer” early morning delivery in my area. They also hoped this “improvement” in service would meet with my approval.

It did not.

I went outside in a driving rain this morning to find my weekly delivery wrapped in the cheapest of plastic coverings, lying on the sidewalk. Yuck.

USA Today decided after six plus years of sending me a newspaper in primo condition…I would now enjoy a weathered edition instead.

The irony to all this is the newspaper in question would have come via mail today anyway. This new service wasn’t improving delivery time. I suspect since USA Today already drops off its main publication in our area they decided to deduct some mailing cost and now treat this product as part of regular home delivery subscriptions.

I admittedly was waiting to see what happened after this letter came. It was hard for me to believe they would just switch someone from mail delivery to nature delivery.

They did.

And on principle alone, I had decided to cancel if they did that. I wasn’t mad. I just decided I could do without the subscription. If I wanted to get a certain issue, it would still be available at the convenience store. Dry. I was leaning towards cancelling it all along and their faux pas in customer service gently nudged me over the edge. Whatever. My right to do so. I didn’t even care at that point if I could have it mailed. I just decided I wanted to sever ties and get approximately $10 bucks back (the balance of my current subscription).

Based on what I perceive my time’s worth, I burnt up that $10 just trying to get off the phone. I was asked question after question in an attempt to keep me as a subscriber. I was a) taken back so much effort was being put forth for such a low-cost product and b) taken back at the nature of the questions trying to probe me for details as to why I wanted to cancel it…including the offer to put my subscription “on hold” and let me reconsider my situation later on. I did not go into detail about my mail versus “dump-off” scenario. I simply volunteered I no longer had time to read it…and it was also an economic issue. Yet, the retention effort continued. Why would you keep trying to talk someone out of staying a customer when you were telling them it was an economic issue? Folks in Collections have time on their hands these days?

I just tried to make a one-minute call to cancel a newspaper subscription.

By the time I got done the equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition I was actually a tad angry at the waste of my time…and the “probing.” I was assured the refund would be sent out…but it got me to thinking. If the cancellation had just been accepted and processed in a timely, professional manner would they have had a better chance of getting me to subscribe again someday? What if they came out with a new electronic or hard copy publication I determined I could not live without?

I know that regardless of the product or service involved many times those calling to cancel are plain ol’ hopping mad and just want that feeling of disengagement ASAP. Others call in a state of sadness. Perhaps they cannot afford the product or service at this time and the last thing they want to do is cancel…but they have to.

Does it serve a company better in the long-term to process cancellation requests without engaging or challenging the customer at that moment? After my experience today, I would not be a good candidate for any future retention effort. I’m just wondering out loud here…if my request for a refund was handled without grilling me as to my reasons…or making me feel as if I didn’t even know my own mind…maybe I would be a customer again someday.

Companies should seriously consider how “deep” they go into customer retention when one calls to sever the relationship. You may have a better chance of getting that customer back…depending on how you let them depart.


About sportsattitudes

I'm Bruce. Born, raised and still outside the City of Brotherly Love. Managed (so far) to visit a dozen of our United States and Canada (twice). Addicted from birth to Television/Movies/Sports. Took three years of French and got credit for two of 'em.
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4 Responses to How A Customer Departs Can Determine If They Will Return

  1. Tipsy Lucy says:

    How aggravating! It’s too bad their customer service (or lack there of) left a bad taste in your mouth.


  2. “I am a dinosaur who likes the “feel” and “availability” of a newspaper.” ~ as am I.

    “If the cancellation had just been accepted and processed in a timely, professional manner would they have had a better chance of getting me to subscribe again someday?” ~ if you are anything like me, then, yes…it would have made a WORLD of difference!

    Once again, another fantastic post!


    • PCC, I am glad we are newspaper pals! And yes, I would have looked much more favorably upon them had they taken only a minute of my time and acted quickly upon my request without making the process unpleasant.


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