Better Keep Your Ex-Customers Loyal!


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Huh? …You may be thinking that the title of this entry makes no sense. Why should you care about former customers who packed up and took their business elsewhere. Forget them. Right? While it’s true that you may be distant cousins at this point in the relationship, there’s still a relationship that exists nonetheless. Therefore, be aware of how you treat customers in those final moments as they terminate their service. It can leave a powerful and memorable impression of your brand on them. Here are some different examples that demonstrate what I’m talking about…

A few years ago I made the switch to high speed internet at home. A few weeks after I made the switch, I called my dial up ISP to cancel service. The process I went through was so horrible that I’ll never speak well of the company ever again. Here’s what happened: When I called, there was a menu option for disconnecting your service. When I pressed it, I was put on indefinite hold. The first time I waited 20 minutes, then hung up. A couple days later I called again and waited another 30 minutes and hung up. The third time I called, I pressed the option for customer service. I waited about a minute before speaking with a rep. I politely explained that I no longer needed their services and kindly asked for them to disconnect the account. The rep indicated that she could not perform this task and that she would transfer me to the proper group. After transferring me, I waited on hold for 20 minutes before finally saying, “screw this!” and I hung up in a fit of anger. I’ll spare you some additional details and skip to the part where I finally get through to the proper representative. She proceeds through this “customer save” script that I have no patience for. When the purpose of the call is finally clear, she indicates that the only way to terminate service is to write a letter expressing my intentions, sign it and mail it to the Billing department. How aggravating. I was furious. The bitter irony is that I had no beef with this company. They had treated me well over the years. If anyone needed an ISP for dial up or web hosting services, I would have gladly recommended them. But not now. No way.

Here is another example, but with a slight twist.

Satellite radio is awesome and my wife and I have enjoyed it in our cars for years. I had also activated the capability built into the A/V receiver in my living room, so in total I was paying for 3 radios. Looking for areas to save money, my wife and I agreed that we barely use the satellite radio in the living room and it wasn’t worth paying for anymore. I called them up and told them that I was a very happy customer, but that I wanted to terminate service on 1 of my 3 radios. When they asked for a reason, I told them, “we just don’t use it.” Well…whether you use something or not makes absolutely no difference to these people. They’ve been hounding me for weeks. I get junk mail everyday and at least one phone call every week. Every time they call, I explain to them that… “I still use two radios everyday. I’m still a customer. Can you please back off already”? The positive perception I once had of this company is fading faster than a satellite signal when driving into a tunnel.

Word of mouth is still the best and most important form of advertising, and if you’re not nice to your former customers, they may have A LOT to say about it. Review your disconnect and “save” processes carefully. Heck… try them for yourself. And if you aren’t fired up and ticked-off by the end of it all…..tell ’em you were “just kidding.” 🙂

Eric Camulli
As Vice President for 7signal, Eric is focused on helping organizations bring high quality and highly productive experiences to people using Wi-Fi networks everywhere. In today's connected economy, our dependency on robust, reliable Wi-Fi is paramount. Eric is dedicated to ensuring that companies deliver peak wireless performance so that they can compete in a marketplace exploding with wireless devices.


  1. Eric

    I totally agree. There are normally role-specific teams in contact centers dedicated to preventing customer churn, and one of the basic strategies is to make it difficult to churn.

    BSkyB, the UK’s leading satellite broadcaster, offers customer service functionality at the contact center and through the set-top box. You can, for example, upgrade your service, or book pay-per-view shows through both channels, but if you want to downgrade service or quit being a customer, guess what? Yes, you’ve got to call the contact centre. Those tasks cannot be performed on the set-top box. When you get to the contact center, there are some silkily skilled specialists trying to stop you churning using a number of different techniques depending upon your reason for churning.

    I’ve just churned from my long-term ISP. I called the contact center to tell them I no longer required service, and joy of joys, they didn’t try to make me stay. Never was customer service incompetence so welcome!

    Francis Buttle, PhD
    The Customer Champion

  2. Yes, I just had a similar positive experience the other day. At home, I recently switched to Mac, so when I saw the auto-renewal for my anti-virus software appear on my credit card bill, I immediately called them to cancel.

    No hassles, no questions…they gave me an immediate credit. This positive cancellation experience gave me an excellent impression of their customer service capabilities!


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