When I linked to Ryan Block's Comcast call yesterday, I didn't realise that it had already been played more than 4 million times. I suspect Ryan's popularity is one reason and that the sheer craziness of the call is another, but overwhelmingly it is the desire for people to hear someone go through the pain that most of us have experienced at one time or another.
Three is a company I use and actually like a lot; good value, excellent coverage, fast data speeds and decent customer services (in the stores), but when I phoned to cancel a mobile broadband connection about a year ago I got stuck in a long and heated debate with the customer service rep. The fact I pay for 4 contracts for the whole family did not matter because he still wanted to sell me on the benefits of an extra contract I did not need. Eventually he agreed to cancel it and then the next bill came in and so it continued until I complained and got the cancellation I wanted and a refund.
Sky is not much better. The company often offers half-price Sky Movies for 3 months which is a good deal. I remember phoning to cancel once just before Christmas when the deal was expiring. The lady asked me if I had children. I was taken aback, but said yes. She then said, and I quote, "How do you think they will feel if you cancel the Movies subscription just before Christmas?" I won't write what I said next, but she then cancelled it for me presumably so she could get off the phone quickly.
I understand that keeping customers is much cheaper than gaining new ones, but if a customer asks for something that is reasonable and within their rights, they should not have to debate the point. They should not have to answer personal questions and they should not have to justify their reasoning to someone who is naturally biased.
What these organisations do not seem to realise is that when you have an aggressive retention policy, you can bring down the image of the entire company. Three does this and so does Sky, two companies who generally offer very good customer service where you can speak to one person who is able to fix problems for you. It is of course natural and happens everywhere. You can open a Spotify account in seconds, but have to jump through screen after screen to cancel it- that's how businesses work, but there are limits that need to be adhered to.
One final example. Many years ago I phoned a company to cancel a service (I can't even remember who they were), and the lady simply said "That's all done for you now. Sorry that you are leaving and we hope that you will be back in the future." It really made me think about how the company viewed customers and at that crucial moment, my entire opinion changed.
Sometimes you need to let go gracefully to greatly increase your chances of getting them back.