Honor Thy Customer Before He Leaves–Not After


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In three years, I’ve never felt as loved as I do now by the cable service I just dropped, Cox Communications. Why? Because at the end of March, Verizon Fios will be the new communications provider at my home. And I feel heartsick for Cox—I’m not leaving Cox because I love Verizon more, but only because the Verizon package costs much, much less than my unbundled services.

Now the jilted Cox is communicating—with a vengeance. They have called me several times in the last two weeks to tell me how much they will miss my business. Today’s call was from Vivian “calling on behalf of Cox.” Picking up on her semantic hint, I asked her what company she was with. “Timberline,” she reported, and without pausing, she continued, “We understand you want to go with another provider, and we’re calling to offer you a discount on your cable service if you continue with Cox.”

The irony of all this was too much to bear, so I asked Vivian why Cox would wait until I’ve decided to terminate my service to have an outsourced salesperson call to tell me how much I’m appreciated by offering me a discount when they were perfectly happy to bill me at the premium rate up to this time. The unflappable Vivian didn’t have an answer for me, but she told me she noted my concern and she wished me a good day.

I was disappointed that Vivian couldn’t shed light on my question. I realize that logic often gets in my way. Is there anyone who can help me understand why Cox might wait until a customer has decided to leave to apply significant resources toward customer retention, rather than loving a customer while he or she is a customer? Is there a compelling conversion factor or KPI that I’m unaware of that makes Cox’s late plea economically astute?

In the end, it seems sad that Cox has such poor Customer Relationship Management execution that it could only muster a price-play on this “hail Mary” telemarketing call. Cox’s customers deserve better—and so does Vivian.


  1. Andrew,

    Great story, made all the more remarkable by how common it is! In answer to your question about why they would wait, the answer comes down to how companies track and measure customer behavior. If Vivian had been able to convince you, then her employer would have made some kind of “bounty” for hunting you back. Someone within Cox would have claimed credit (and a bonus) for “winning back” a “lapsed” customer. What would have been interesting is if you had called and threatened them before you actually made the decision to leave. I find that different companies react differently to that threat. Some will make an offer to convince you to stay. Others encourage you to leave and will tell you that you are not eligible for a break unless you are a “former” customer.

    It just goes to show. Corporate America is still a long way from being a customer friendly place, with a few exceptions.

    Naras V. Eechambadi, Ph.D.
    email: [email protected]


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