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Archive for April, 2010


Customer Retention – You’re Doing It Wrong

Once upon a time, in the happy land of Canada (a very large country with a very low population density), there existed an evil telecommunications company. We’ll call this company “Big Red.”

There was a distinct lack of solid competition in the varying markets of which Big Red was a part. Accordingly (take a deep breath before you read this), it saw fit to (pardon my French) screw its customers royally by charging exorbitant prices, and offering what would sometimes amount to (again, kindly pardon my French) “bubkis.”

I’ve been a customer of Big Red for quite some time now. Given my apparent disdain for this company, it may seem somewhat hypocritical to willingly give them business while holding such harsh opinions of them. But when there are so few other service providers offering what you need, what you crave, sometimes you’re forced to settle for what’s available.

Cell phone plans. TV packages. You want high-speed internet? Sure, we can hook you up, but you might want to start emptying your RRSP. What, residents of other countries (even other provinces in the same country) get speeds 15x faster for 1/4 the price? We don’t care. Look somewhere else, then. But you’ll be back. We know this, because you have no choice.

Crazy people eat phones

Crazy people eat phones. Big Red made me crazy.

You want voicemail with that cell plan? That’ll be $16,238.23, please. A data plan? Hold still, we’ll need your kidney. Hey, at least we said please. You can’t fault us for not being polite.

After enduring aeons of horrid customer service, constant over-charges, and policy changes without even being notified ahead of time, another provider finally offered a comparable service, built on reliable technology, for a better price. We’ll call them “Ding Dong.” Ah, the sweet smell of renewed competition. So I switched.

Even when faced with the imminent loss of a long-time customer, their best offer was to give me an upgraded plan for the same price for the next six months. But then charge me almost the same amount I would be saving, in extra modem rental fees.

Customer retention – you’re doing it wrong, Red.

My phone call to Big Red informing them of my cancellation of their service should have been as delicious as pie, and as satisfying as… Well, pie. But even then, I was patronized by the seemingly polite, yet condescending, service representative. She tested my patience as she asked me my reason for cancelling, and then told me repeatedly that I was mistaken in my accusations – that Big Red would never make a hidden policy change, and then over-charge their customers as a result to make a buck.

She even brought her personal life into the conversation, claiming that she didn’t get paid to sit there and tell me things that weren’t true. She tried to guilt me into backing down by telling me of her poor children at home. Did this somehow give her the right to defend a company that, even now, was treating me like an idiot? Did it make it ok for her to treat me the same way?

Customer retention – yeah, you know where I’m going with this, Red.

So why is it that in order to get an unlimited data plan in this country, I have to sign over my soul and that of my future first born child? Why is it that it doesn’t get much better if I switch over to another provider?

There isn’t enough threat to Big Red’s bottom line from other companies, so they don’t feel the need to acquiesce to their customers. You know, customers – the ones who buy their products, the reason they’re still in business.

It’s a little better in the United States. Although many would still complain about the service from such companies, they still have access to better plans, better options. And because there are more companies more than willing to snatch a customer out from under the nose of a competitor, they will work that much harder to please the people who pay their bills and retain their business.

Here’s hoping that Ding Dong has learned a few lessons from their own mistakes, and those of Big Red. It’s taken this long, but it looks like new players are finally entering the market here in the happy land of Canada (that magical place where lumberjack and beaver chop wood in peaceful unity). Here’s hoping that things get really nasty between them, so that we as consumers can reap some real benefit.

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A Good Idea is Like a Juicy Steak…

A good idea is like a juicy steak...

Steak. Yum.

Or a delish pad thai, if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion. I have no idea where I was going with that analogy.

It’s been about nine years since I first had the idea to create a site to host other people’s blogs. I was in high school, playing around with PHP and MySQL databases for the first time. I loved the idea of having a blog (I’d created a few of them already).

I started building a brand new one for myself, database driven (which was a first for me). Halfway through, I thought, “How cool would it be if I offered others a place on my site to blog themselves?”

So I built it. And for a while, many of my friends at school had fun creating their own profiles on, and blogging to their hearts’ content. The end result was, of course, somewhat crude compared to what’s available to aspiring bloggers today. But the point is, I had the idea, and it was a good idea.

What did I do with it?

I let it fall through the cracks. I told myself, “It isn’t that good of an idea. It won’t take off.” Big mistake.

Today, I look back, and I kick myself for not running with what would probably have been a huge deal if I had continued to develop and market the idea. In fact, I probably would have been among the first to create such a thing. A pioneer in the industry, if you will.

Is this a regret? Yes; A major one. But I’m not one to go emo over spilled apple juice. There’s a point to all this, and that is: Never, ever, discount your ideas as trivial, stupid or not worth running with. If you think you’re onto something good, just start something from it. You have nothing to lose. Even if you fail in the end, you still have the experience you’ve gained from the endeavor, and hopefully, the motivation to try again.

So, really, have you even failed? Take it from me – Don’t let years pass, only to watch someone else take what could’ve been yours. Eat that juicy steak while it’s still in front of you. If you don’t, the steak ninjas will.

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