Losing Customers Graciously: Why The Possessive Ex Can’t Get Another Date


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Everyone’s had a bad breakup.

Remember that old romance that started off strong and then ended with rage and disgust? You know the one that always makes you roll your eyes whenever someone mentions it, because it ended on such horrible terms? With Valentine’s day upon us, I’m reminded of one such breakup.

losing customers

But this relationship was with a company.

They wine and dine you, whisper sweet nothings in your ear. They send you heartfelt messages and special gifts. You decide to give them a shot. It starts off strong. You like the product, the company, the interactions. Then you decide you’ve outgrown this particular relationship. It’s time to move on. But they’re just not going to let you go.

They make cancelling as close to impossible as possible. They think if they can hang onto you just a little bit longer as a customer, you’ll remember all the good times and fall in love again. They’ll sweet talk you into another option, one that’s better for you.  ”It’s not you. It’s me!”

I recently tried several  online backup services, and this was one I decided to date for a while. There was no free trial to speak of, so after reading the terms and conditions (cancel anytime – it’s month-to-month!) I decided to give them my digits. (Credit card digits, that is.)

Things were good, but we slowly drifted apart.

After an entire relationship that existed exclusively online – online registration, online payment, online product engagement – I searched and searched for how to cancel. No dice. It was like they knew I was bound to leave so they hid my car keys!

I finally decided to call the “Contact Us” number only to learn that I needed to login to a special support site I had never seen before to have my “support case number” handy. I tried to get to a real person by using the usual tactics, like hitting zero or “star” but to no avail. They had outsmarted me. They saw this coming and did their best to hang on to me a little longer.

Not expecting this big ordeal, I had called on my way out the door – not sitting patiently in front of my computer. So I decided I would try later.

losing customers

Another month went by. Another paid month. For a service I no longer needed or wanted.

I had had enough. I was not going to pay for another useless month. I decided to  search the FAQ‘s and guess what!? Although “How do I cancel my service” happens to be a common question in the user forums, it is suspiciously not addressed in the company-written FAQ’s. Users ask over and over again.

And the answer? Well, it’s shocking.

You must log in to the support site you probably never knew existed. Need a password for that support site? That’s another step to go through.

Log in to the support site, then enter your “case support number” for the robot taking the call.  Then place another call to “Sales” although the number is not conveniently located near the customer support section.

So after locating that number, I called customer support while staring at my “Case Support Number” so as to be sure this would get done today.

“Why do you wish to cancel?” Asked the representative. My blood pressure was rising quickly. “Because I have no use for the product. I haven’t used it for at least 2 months, but this cancellation process has been sort of a nightmare.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that. I actually can’t process your cancellation, but I will have someone CALL YOU BACK.”

GIF by Mashable

I wish I was joking.

I took a deep breath and said “I need to be sure I will receive a call today. And I will be, you know, living my life, so here is my mobile number.”

When I received the call several hours later I happened to be in a department store fitting room trying on a dress for an event. The man on the phone asked me for that infamous support number. I almost lost it.

He settled for the last 4 digits of the card number I used for payment.

I asked him why it was impossible to cancel online, when I can do everything else that way. And of course, he didn’t have, or couldn’t give me,  a real answer.

If you love someone, set them free!

Respect your customers’ decisions and make everything as easy as possible. Yes, even when you are losing customers! Don’t think for a moment that it doesn’t matter because they are leaving you anyway. For one thing, I’m one of many who will be quite public about my bad experience. Anyone who mentions giving this company a try will surely receive a stern warning from me. And for another, what if I decided I had the need for this type of product in the future? I will never even entertain the thought of working with this company again. All because they ruined it at the end.

losing customers

This was, to put it mildly, a very bad breakup.

And the same holds true whether cancelling a service, returning a product or exchanging merchandise. Just because it looks like the end of the relationship does not mean the experience ceases to matter.

What do you want your previous customers to remember you for?  We’d love to help you make sure all customer journeys, even the not-so-great ones, end on good terms.

 Photo Credits: birgerkingcreating in the dark, & Unlisted Sightings via Creative Commons 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeannie Walters, CCXP
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a globally recognized speaker, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a Tedx speaker. She’s a very active writer and blogger, contributing to leading publications from Forbes to Pearson college textbooks. Her mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.”


  1. Great article – timely, too! And I really like the animation. Your vignette connected with me as I wrote about a similar experience in 2008 (“Honor Thy Customer before He Leaves, Not After). What’s odd about experiencing this customer-retention desperation is that it always begs the question, ‘why didn’t you put this much effort into ensuring satisfaction with your product/service in the first place?’

    I recently met a sales professional whose entire job was to reclaim lost clients for her company. Not clients who just fizzled and moved on, but flamingly-unhappy former customers. From the numbers she shared with me, she was exceptional at restoring their status to ‘current customer.’ But it amazed me that there was even a role for her at her company. When she described a ‘typical conversation,’ it seemed that it would be far easier for her employer to pay attention to the complaints, and then to fix them.


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