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April 29, 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.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 29 2010

    A GUILT trip?!? You’re freaking kidding me!

    I hate the lack of competition here – it’s absolutely ridiculous. My first cell phone was with Telus. At the end of my contract (which, by the way, they LIED to me about: it was three years, not two), I switched as fast as my short, little legs could carry me because the number of missed/dropped calls was astronomical.

    I’ve been with Rogers for 10 years. For the most part, I’ve been happy both with the network and their customer service. However, in the past couple of years, both have gone down hill. Unfortunately, we’re locked into yet another contract for another two years (because we didn’t want to have to pay $300 for phones (and yes, that’s including the “upgrade”)). Oh, and did you know? The Big Three have changed their cancellation policy: where before they could only charge you $20/remaining month to a maximum of $200, it’s now to a maximum of $400 (and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve heard rumblings of EIGHT HUNDRED dollars).

    Both the last company I worked for and my parents were with Bell: the coverage (in BC, anyhow) was spotty/set up strange (long distance in the same town literally over a bridge); every. single. month. they’d have to call to get their billing corrected – it was such a hassle, I’ll never use Bell.

    So, that leaves me with… no one. Yeah. Great.

  2. Owen
    Apr 29 2010

    Love the article, I totally agree with you! I’m actually looking into the bell switch you were telling me about. The Article is so Tristanx, keep it up!


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