(Ex) Customer Satisfaction – The Brand Implications

By | 2011-09-17

I’m going to stray away from the normal digital marketing/analytics type of post and bring up what I consider to be a relevant marketing factor that is overlooked from time to time.

It should be pointed out that in this post I am calling out specific companies but they are not the only ones guilty of what is described. The ones named were the most recent offenders that I’ve run into.

The Crux:
Companies need to understand that marketing is not just comprised of outbound communication (e-mail, ads, etc) but also customer satisfaction – even with customers that no longer want to do business with them.
No request for an account to be canceled should be treated as a personal attack on your business, rather an opportunity to prove to the (ex)customer that you are a respectful company that is willing to stand on the merits of your offering.

If your company is willing to treat former customers just as well as you would a current customer there could be a chance that the ex-customer would mention your company to a friend that has a need for your solution.

Jump Ahead
My Story
The Rant
Their Continued Failure
The Dispute
Their Persistent Failure
The Wrap Up

My Story:
For a number of years I have been rather loyal to one particular web hosting company as they provided direct access to the underlying server, without having to purchase a separate physical or virtual server. The provider was the “no frills” type and it was fantastic. I pay you, you give me access to a machine, all is great in the world.

Over the years my need for this level of access subsided and as a result it was decided that I would look at other hosting providers, for future domains, that provided a simpler experience.
In checking with folks, the search wasn’t as difficult as anticipated and as a result, I ended up with Bluehost.com. They had exactly what I wanted, provided a fairly technical hands-off offering and were reasonably priced.

What I didn’t realize, in exchange for that ease, they allowed a number of their solution partners (SEO, script management, etc.) to have access to my information. Not any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) but simple stuff like the e-mail address that I used to signup with Bluehost (specifically for Bluehost) and my domain name.

I’m sure, for most people, that these additional services are wonderful surprises that provide important web site optimization solutions that the average new person was not capable of doing on their own, manually.

In my case, I’ve been accustom to a provider that basically didn’t know I existed so I had no interest in these services.

At first I would receive the occasional e-mail, branded with the Bluehost logo at the top, describing these great additional benefits. As I do with most e-mails from companies that I have some relationship with, I quickly scanned them for anything that I thought would be worth a second look. In just about every case nothing caught my eye so I would delete the e-mail and mosey on with my daily grind.

After a while the frequency of e-mails increased to once or twice a week. It caught my attention as they were no longer had the Bluehost logo, rather they were various web service providers send e-mail to the Bluehost e-mail address. I then went on an unsubscribing spree, whenever I saw the option.

Out of these e-mails one stuck out. It was one that sent me reports about how horrible my “SEO Score” was and that I continually scored a zero (“0”) in their solution.

I bit the hook and decided to see what justified this score, given I had spent sometime (not a lot, but some) making sure that I wasn’t completely skipping out on SEO. There was already an account setup for my domain and the solution showed that my site sucked at SEO, as it was described in the e-mails they sent. It was obvious that this was essentially a pitch to get me to signup for their additional services.

No biggie right, go to account settings and just unsubscribe/cancel/delete/whatever my account and I can stop getting the e-mails and stop them from scanning my site.

This is where things went downhill quickly.

There was no option to delete the account. Perhaps I missed it?
I decided to search their help site, which was hosted by GetSatisfaction, and after numerous searches about how to cancel the account, I found a pattern. In every case the company (Attracta) told ‘customers’ that they need to send an e-mail with the account details and they would provide a link so you could delete your account.

Huh, What?! You are providing a link, but I need to e-mail you first with my account details? You can just make the link available in the account properties section?

The Rant:
Now I was annoyed… I decided to post in their support forum, creating an account using the same e-mail address and relative account information, so that they could backtrack the account.

Admittedly, I wrote the post while rather frustrated and annoyed but the message was rather clear.

You should be embarrassed by the loops that you force people to go through to cancel/delete an account. As a SaaS/cloud based offering this process should take no more than an account options button, a page with “are you sure?” and then a please tell us why (optional).

People are well aware that companies that force users to call or send an email to cancel an account will be “pitched” reasons to stay. Even if that is not the case here, people already assume it.

At the top of your site there is a number of the domains that you are working with. I wonder, how many of them are actually using your service versus just being stuck with your service because of your laborious cancellation process.

In case this post was not clear enough for you;

I want my account canceled and deleted – you know who I am as you are able to match my account name/id with this post.

Also, you should be proud, you have inspired me to share my experience with your company with others in a more broad audience as unfortunately you are one of only a small handful of companies that use this pathos approach to cancellation.

I fully expect you to delete this post, as it doesn’t praise your company. Rest assured, this is not the last time you will see one of its ilk until you solve the problem.


Their Continued Failure:
No surprise, two days later I received an e-mail from GetSatisfaction:

Your problem, “Account Cancelation”, has been merged into the question: cancel my service

Topics can be merged by community moderators when they appear to be duplicates of other topics. Andrew XXXXXXXX (censored), a moderator for Attracta, gave this reason for the change: “I think you’ll find helpful information in this similar topic.”

We will email you when there are new replies to this topic. If you don’t think your problem is the same as the one the moderator has suggested, you may re-submit your problem with clarifications.

If you disagree with this change, you can dispute it here.

The interesting part about this is that GetSatisfaction’s e-mail stated that my post was “merged” into another post. I decided to see what other complaints people had submitted in this new merged forum topic to see if they had the same frustration that I had.

My post wasn’t merged… it was purged. Flat out deleted.

The Dispute:
So now I was beyond annoyed, they essentially wanted the post buried/deleted/hidden – as I guessed in the original post.
I decided to submit my dispute:

It is obvious that you did not read the post but rather just looked at the subject.

I have made it clear that my account is to be canceled and it is inappropriate to force someone to manually e-mail the support team so that they can generate link to cancel the account (after what is surely a retention sales pitch).

By pointing out that the account cancellation process is managed via a link only further reiterates the original post.

Be deleting the post, as I assumed that you would – as it doesn’t sing the praises of Attracta, you have made it abundantly clear that Attracta is not in the business of satisfying customers or prospective customers.

Making an account cancellation process simple *ATTRACTS* people to your service as they are willing to give you a chance to prove if your service is worth staying on-board. To trap people as customers, AND list them on your website as domains that you work with is a pathetic approach to drum up business – even McDonalds abandoned this practice.

Attracta cannot be oblivious to the frustration of the account cancellation process as your Get Satisfaction forums are littered with people expressing the same thing.

In case, once again, you have missed the purpose of the post and this follow up….
I want my account canceled. You have my account information, as it is linked to this support account.

The best part of this interaction with your company is that you have fueled a blog post about your atrocious business practices. Thank you for that.


Their Persistent Failure:
Since this dispute response I have not heard back from Attracta (with even a simple e-mail with the deletion link), the original post is still hidden/deleted and my account still exists.

The Wrap Up:
Companies, you may think that your solution is changing the world and vital to any company that is looking to do what you provide but you should understand, not everyone is interested in your wares. Automatically creating accounts without opt-in permission, sharing account information, and creating unnecessary hurdles for people to jump through to get rid of something that they never wanted in the first place, is hurting your reputation more than it likely is adding to your bottom-line.

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