Why You Can't Cancel Your Account, An Insider's Perspective

It’s easy to forget that despite infuriating scripts and adherence to dogmatic corporate policies, CSRs are real people. A former call center worker wrote in to describe the extraordinary pressure CSRs feel from management to keep customers from canceling their accounts.

You’d think it was so easy: call to cancel service, and it’s cancelled. And yet, it never is. Here’s why.

Most customer service is outsourced, but either way, customer service is a cost. Businesses dislike costs. It’s much easier to try to cut costs than to make more money; costs are to be minimized unless they can be directly quantified as creating more money. So customer service, which costs money, is generally done in a manner that costs the company the least amount.

Smart companies realize that good customer service does create more business. However, most companies either get the lowest possible costing customer service. This is done through, among other things, outsourcing to India. But one way to skirt this is to actually make money through customer service. This is generally done through two ways: upselling or retention.

I worked for a customer service outsourcer. It was part of our agreement with the client that we would retain a certain percentage of customers who wanted to cancel (25% to 30%). The client — our real customer — loved this. Through the magic of creating mandatory scripts for our CSRs to read, little actual personal interaction was a part of this process, in order to make it as predictable and regulated as possible.

In these scripts, if a customer wanted to cancel, you’d ask them why, then input the reason for a relevant retention script. There was often no option for “Prefers not to say” / “Doesn’t know”; the CSR was responsible for asking more follow-up questions for “resistant” customers. In the rare cases that “Prefers not to say” was even in the script, the response would be something along the lines of “I can certainly understand you might now want to discuss the matter right now … would you like to hold your subscription for three months [at which point we start billing you and you’ve probably forgotten] and be guaranteed the same rate?”

CSRs were tracked and rated based on their retention rates. It was also a part of their employee review. Reviews were done by the numbers: call length, attendance, customer retention. A small amount (generally 5%) was actually under the discretion of the supervisor for employees who, say, actually went out of their way to help customers out.

Failing to attempt customer retention was a serious offense; it was considered more serious than screwing up a customer’s account. After all, screw up an account and it’s probably an innocent mistake; fail to try to retain a customer, which was a huge part of employee training, could only be done by willful negligence. Not making at least two attempts to save the customer would also count against the “quality” of the call. Quality and retention percentages together generally comprised over half of the employee’s score, which was the general measure of their performance, and strongly affected their pay and work schedule.

Not surprisingly, such strong focus on customer retention created many situations where employees would not cancel accounts. Misleading wording, while not encouraged by the company, was common to offer alternatives to canceling. Outright lies were less common, but still occurred. Often, many “mistakes” in processing accounts were failing to cancel. Strangely, accidentally cancelled accounts were rare to the point of extinction. After all, making a mistake on an account was less of a black mark than failing to retain customers, and a few extra mistakes were unlikely to be caught. Failure to meet the retention goals meant trouble and eventual termination. What’s more, to decrease costs, management and any kind of oversight is minimal. Twenty, often thirty employees to one supervisor was the norm.

If you are a typical call center worker – unskilled, uneducated, living paycheck to paycheck off a generally low-pay and no-benefit job, being constantly driven by management to retain customers – what do you do when your numbers are low for the month: cancel Suzy Q.’s account and risk being fired, or sweep it under the table and be able to pay for your kids’ school clothes? After all, if you call back tomorrow to see if the account’s really cancelled, chances are this customer will reach a different CSR. Chances are, this call isn’t one of the three or four calls a month that is actually monitored by someone. Chances are indeed very good that there will be absolutely no consequence to not canceling this customer’s account, but there will definitely be a consequence if the account is actually cancelled.

You canceling your ISP’s internet service or your magazine subscription is a very small matter to you. But it is a critical matter of employment to the CSR. Under such pressures, created by greedy companies, who can be surprised that “mistakes” are made.

Corporations are ultimately responsible for creating and supporting ruthless retention practices, though that doesn’t absolve CSRs who lie about canceling accounts just to get customers off the phone.

Canceling an account is a battle of wills. Corporations are determined to keep your money; CSRs are determined to keep their job. Don’t be a pushover. If one call doesn’t work, call back. Keep calling until your account is cancelled; and then, call once more to verify.

(Photo: SpooSpa)

Comments

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  1. vr4z06gt says:

    If one call doesn’t work, call back. Keep calling until your account is cancelled; and then, call once more to verify.

    Consumerist are you even serious?!!! Fuck that, its my money I should have to beg and hound inorder to keep it. If I say cancel my account, CANCEL MY ACCOUNT I shouldn’t be playing games for it, man I hope congress reforms this ‘industry’ for their dishonest practices. as for the CSR im sorry that’s how it is but I need my money just as you need yours, maybe try college again, or find another job, but don’t lie to me.

  2. vr4z06gt says:

    *i shouldn’t have…

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    Policies like this just ensure that they’ll never, ever get that customer back.

  4. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    It all amounts to highly unethical behaviour. If a customer asks to close an account the account should be closed immediately.

  5. ellmar says:

    So should we have a national Be Kind to A CSR Day? Everyone calls a company whose service you are perfectly happy with. Engage the CSR with a bogus story of woe. Insist that you want to cancel your subscription/account/service. Allow the CSR to “save” your account after making the obligatory two attempts to cancel. Happy CSR. Happy little children with new school clothes. Happy supervisor. Happy CEO. Happy shareholders. Happy stock brokers. Because, really, that is what we live for, to make THEM happy.

  6. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    Yea, I totally agree, especially with the bit about try another job. I know times can be difficult, and that whole thing about choosing to close my account or buy your kids school clothes is a real problem for many people, but really… When they talk about the job market, they aren’t talking so much about minimum wage jobs like this. Those are a dime per dozen. I could go out to any mall, or any cleaning service, any restaurant, etc., and get a job.

    CSR industry is bullshit? Go work somewhere else. There are similar low-paying jobs that AREN’T so stressful. At 22, I’ve just broken into the market to have my first career job, rather than a job in the mall or something like that, but I’ve done my time in the shitty-job market.

    Luckily for this writer, he/she was smart enough to realize all of this and get the hell out.

    I think what’s worse for people in this situation is that a lot of times they’re in such desperate need of the money that they don’t really realize any other option in life.

  7. Cowboys_fan says:

    Though this may be true in some, and maybe most instances, it is certainly not true everywhere. I too was a csr, for an unnamed top 4 cell company, and was responsible for cancelling accounts along with everything else. My job was to try to make one reasonable offer based on your circumstances to try to keep you, and if it failed, we cancelled. It really was that simple, unless we truly felt you didn’t really want to cancel. I was scored on a minimum of 2-3 calls/week. I too worked for an outsourcer, for a company that also had internal csr’s as well. Truthfully, you got better service from us than the company reps, mainly because we got bonuses based on customer satisfaction, and the internals didn’t. The only time I didn’t cancel is when some weird computer issue wouldn’t let me, I couldn’t fix it, and the customer didn’t have a call-back number for me to notify them it may take some time, and even that was rare. In fact, I was usually happy to cancel because people cancelling are usually in a bad mood. If the customer did not give me a reason that matched my codes, I just picked a reason for them and noted the real reason in the account. Also, we never used scripts except for contracts. I leave the company nameless to avoid advertising, or that perception.

  8. Chmiola says:

    I situation involving a CSR lying to me about canceling a credit card account. I signed up for the apple credit card through Juniper bank when purchasing a new notebook, but when the order was changed Juniper wouldn’t apply the 0% financing. After speaking with their customer service and being repeatedly told they couldn’t do anything I asked for them to cancel my account which had a zero balance and no transactions. They told me my account was cancelled. Three months later I received a letter from Barclay bank explaining that Juniper bank had been acquired and my account was now under Barclay bank. The same account I was told was cancelled. I was able to log into their online account system and sure enough my account was there, unused. I hadn’t received a single statement or communication, or the credit card itself, since I’d opened the account.
    When I called to cancel the account (again) I explained my suspicion that the first rep I talked to lied about canceling my account in order to keep his retention numbers up. I asked if records were kept about customer service calls and the representatives that handled them and the rep told me that information like that was not kept. Is this standard practice?

  9. j-o-h-n says:

    Your advice is nuts. Call once to cancel. And there after you can just dispute any future credit card charges.

  10. Bay State Darren says:

    Next time I’ve got to cancel and they ask for a reason, I think I’ll just say, “Well I’m gonna stop sending you guys money, so you might as well stop trying to give me service.”

  11. DashTheHand says:

    Honestly, this “confession” is a disguised pity party. If you don’t like the pressure of being told you can’t let people cancel, and then can’t deal with people being pissed off because some other CSR didn’t cancel them, FIND A NEW JOB.

    I did a call center job when I was younger, though it was one for a drug trial entry. The problem there wasn’t people wanting to get out, it was addicts and people in REAL pain crying on the phone because they didn’t fit the requirements to get IN. It was equally horrible with people screaming about wanting to know what disqualified them, etc etc.

  12. everclear75 says:

    I know that is was unethical as hell, but I called up XM radio last year to cancel knowing that the CSR
    would try to “retain” me. So I was very firm with the rep and after a few minutes I was able to get a few months free and then have my monthly rate plan for about 6 bucks from there on out. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, because shortly there after, my XM radio along with several other pieces of car electronics were “liberated” from my truck. Guess karma’s a bitch. But that’s another story.

    /oh, I was able to get Comcast to give me the promo price point on my internets subscription by just asking..

  13. Bay State Darren says:

    @Cowboys_fan: unless we truly felt you didn’t really want to cancel.

    That’s not abusable, is it? (Not saying you personally did.) Personally, I say let the customers decide what they really want and not have CSRs play psychologist.

  14. Cowboys_fan says:

    @Bay State Darren:
    You’re right in a sense but I more meant if a customer says something like that phone price is too high, just cancel. Well obviously in this case they don’t want to cancel, they want a better price. If I cannot offer a better price, then I will offer a credit perhaps, or a free months service, but then will cancel. Its so funny too because there are alot of people who threaten to cancel, really because thats all they can do if unsatisfied, and I would call them on it and say okay, I’ll cancel then, and suddenly they backtrack. There is a fine line between a customer who wants to cancel, and one who just wants a problem fixed, and it can be quite tough to know which is which. So be nice to your csr’s, but more importantly, be honest.

  15. North of 49 says:

    Just because CSRs are a minimum wage job does not mean the person working it can just quit the job they are doing and find another minimum wage job. Not everyone is cut out to work in a restaurant, or a fast food joint, or a sales job at the mall or a telephone sales job or any of the hundreds of others of beginner jobs.

    That being said, there is no excuse for not cancelling the account when asked. the managers should be fired for forcing their staff to retain accounts by coercion and deception.

  16. North of 49 says:

    on a second thought, why not just default in paying the account? Sure, you owe the money, but let them send a cancellation letter for letting the account lapse. I don’t know how many times I’ve had arguments with CSRs over not cancelling services like cable because we’ve been a month late. They are more than happy to cancel the account then. I wonder if they’ll let me cancel it if I am up to date on my payments. Makes me think…

  17. evil_doer420 says:

    @North of 49:
    Not so good for the credit score. My advice is be persistant, and if they don’t cancel immediately and this frustrates you, ask for a supervisor, or better yet, go along with everything they say, ask for the sup so you can tell them what a great job they did, and then complain until they cancel. Typically, supervisors don’t get recorded from what I’ve been told, at least in some places.

  18. etinterrapax says:

    The thing is, I know it’s a bitch of a job and everything, and that companies have to make money, but I just plain don’t care. I have some serious compassion fatigue happening. If I’m canceling something, I have a reason. It’s not personal; it’s usually financial, and retrenchment isn’t exactly an activity I enjoy, because I tend not to sign up for things I don’t intend to use or like. Being hassled when I call to cancel is a good way to ensure that the company will never get my business again, and that I will tell the story far and wide. I’m really sick of hearing companies cry that they can’t make any money, and then paying their CEOs more than I’ll probably earn in a lifetime. They’ve succeeded in creating an atmosphere of anger and distrust, and it’s up to them, not their customers, to suffer the consequences of that.

  19. cryrevolution says:

    When I was younger, some of my first jobs were outsourced call center jobs or telemarketing. It was easy, scripted and they would seriously take anybody. I’ve worked atleast 3 different outsourced jobs and while there are scripted, nobody really honestly took their jobs seriously, as it was usually low paying and laughable. If you think their retention techniques are unethical, get a better job. Really. I did. I went through multiple jobs like that because of that very factor. When calling to cancel, the customer shouldn’t have to jump through hoops just to cancel THEIR account. The company shouldn’t mislead the customer to believe it is canceled when its not. Try once, even twice, after that…its just bad customer service.

    And that belief is NEVER going to change, no matter what you say about the plight of the underpaid CSR.

  20. Nekoincardine says:

    Trust me, it’s not very easy to just “change jobs” if you’re not “qualified” for some bullsit reason. Further, refusing to pay as a way to get cancelled may not be the best solution, since that reflects on your credit score.

    A question, though: Would reversing the charge penalize your credit score? That seems to me like a pretty quick way to get service cancelled without having to deal with the phone tree hell, since it takes money that was already in their pocket and pulls it out.

    Another solution: Consumerist could start maintaining, not on the blog itself but on some related site, a collection of numbers of retention complaints from us, the readers. Post a random sampling of them so people have an idea or three of this company’s handling of cancellations. Statistically, I’m willing to bet that would let us find companies who don’t do retention, ergo, are more worth our business. Enough people do this, and “no retentions assholes!” becomes a selling point.

    Just an idea.

  21. humphrmi says:

    Quality and retention percentages together generally comprised over half of the employee’s score, which was the general measure of their performance, and strongly affected their pay and work schedule.

    Wow, I never thought of this! CSR’s with the worst retention all get put on the crappy shifts! When is the crappy shift (in US hours)??? That’s when I want to call to cancel my account!

  22. dantsea says:

    I’d like to introduce that slightly sentient meat loaf to the other team that companies outsource these days: quality assurance. Y’see, companies know their outsourced call centers are probably lying their ass off in the stats report. They know they’re getting screwed, so they brought in another third party.

    When I was working in outsourced QA, we were monitoring every agent on our contract on three random calls every day — not month.

    I loved bringing up a new call center for the contract and finding agents with this attitude. Yeah, I know, call center work sucks, but it’s a job and if you can’t or don’t want to do it, then gtfo.

  23. TNT says:

    Let’s remember that this “insider’s perspective” is one person at one company. I could give you my own, which would be very different. Basically, it seemed 90% of the callers were threatening to cancel because they wanted a “deal.” They wanted us to argue with them… when we didn’t, they’d either ask for a supervisor or keep calling.

    My all-time favorite was the woman who said, “You’re the sixth person I’ve talked to, and no one will give me a deal. I’m tired of this… connect me to the person who will.”

    Yeah, right.

  24. Havok154 says:

    If I went to cancel a service, even temporarily, and go through any retention crap, they will NEVER see me again.

  25. Buran says:

    I don’t care about your job. I care about the cessation of billing. If you want to give me free service for LIFE, fine. I won’t pay a cent after I say “cancel my account, please”. “I have to to keep my job” you say? Fine. Lose your job, but after I tell you you are not authorized to keep billing me YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED.

    End of story.

  26. shallowminded says:

    The call center I work at uses no scripts, cancels all accounts immediately on request, and uses no metrics other than the number of calls or emails taken in a day (to make sure you’re actually working). We’d rather have a 25 minute call where everything was explained to the customer, than a 90-second call to get the customer off the line. We get paid decent money ($30k starting) and get full benefits. Apparently, it only costs marginally more to run this place than a rock-bottom call center or one that’s outsourced, so I don’t really understand why more companies don’t go this route. Oh, well — their loss, I figure.

  27. Sudonum says:

    I’ve read this post a couple times and I still don’t get the impression that this person is saying, “Please don’t cancel your account otherwise I’ll lose my job”.

    I think this person is saying, “Hey, you know why you have problems and have to go through so much damn grief to cancel your account, here’s why”.

  28. telepod says:

    @Buran: Could not have said it better myself…

  29. Edmund_Burke says:

    –On the other hand, as EverClear said, if you have the Promo price for something, when it comes time for that to end, chances are you can keep the rate by threatening to cancel. A win-win for both you (keeping the rate) and the CSR (retention successful!).

  30. cryrevolution says:

    The post would have been fine with the whole “Here’s why you have so many problems…” schtick until she brought up canceling vs. buying your kids school clothes. I think if it comes TO THAT at your job…you really need to look into another job because thats absurd. I understand retaining customers means more money for the corp which means more money for the employees blah blah blah, but at what point do you have to draw the line at trying to retaining customers and flat out lying and pestering.

  31. pyloff says:

    Lucky us… We get to work in the liquid marketspace. It is no longer a marketplace is it?

  32. bohemian says:

    Something people are forgetting is that many of these companies put these call centers in low income rural areas. These are places where people are already poor, there are few other jobs and they usually can’t afford to move easily. So sometimes these people really are sort of stuck.

    As far as canceling and getting a hassle. If I am getting a hassle about canceling I tell the CSR if they continue to bill my account I will dispute the charge and if needed change my card number to prevent further attempts to fleece me after I canceled. This usually does the trick.

    I only had to actually do this once. I canceled but had to dispute the charge. They tried to run it a second time so I had the bank reissue the card with a new number. Luckily it was a seldom used card.

    I wish someone would keep a list of companies that are difficult to cancel or have a track record of not actually canceling. That would be enough information for me to not do business with them, even if I really wanted what they were offering.

  33. TexasScout says:

    If you read the “customer agreement” for most “service companies” you will find that the only real way to communicate with these guys is by certified letter, return receipt requested.

    If you send them a letter canceling your account effective one month from the date of receipt of the letter, you are covered. Then when you fail to pay your next payment, all you have to do is show whoever, your LEGAL document to that effect.

    In business, phone calls don’t mean shit. Even if you record them. Black and white is the way to go.

  34. adamwade says:

    I gotta call crapola on this one as well. I just recently made a posting re: TiVo’s cancellations where I showed sympathy for those who are under this type of pressure. However, to justify INTENTIONALLY misleading people is just bullshit. Sweeping it under the table to give your kids school clothes? What if I go to use my credit card in three months to buy groceries and it’s declined because your company charged me for my “temporary” cancellation that is what you consider “sweeping it under the table”?

    Sorry sister, we all have our sob stories. While I can certainly identify with having a job with those challenges, it’s never right to screw people over. Working for big companies sucks, we all know. But that’s no justification for the behavior described.

  35. miborovsky says:

    While I can certainly understand that these CSRs have a job to do and that is to retain me as a customer, but they are not entitled to lie and cheat about it. This article seems to be defending that practice… I don’t think that should be encouraged, or even justified.

  36. ndavies says:

    If you call to confirm your cancellation, don’t you open yourself up to another “billing mistake” or “misunderstanding” where the next agent can boost their retention score by reactivating the account?
    It seems like if you want to get something done right, you need to do it in writing.

  37. ThyGuy says:

    The company I’m with makes this very easy. We allow them to cancel, they have to pay a fee to cancel. We’re happy, the customer is happy, have a nice day.

    Just make them pay a damn cancel fee. How hard is that? Don’t lie and try to retain them!

  38. The Walking Eye says:

    @ThyGuy: Because I shouldn’t have to pay you a fee to not want to pay for your services anymore. If it’s a contract and the cancellation fee is part of that, so be it. But if it’s just some month to month subscription service, I would raise holy hell with them if they tried to charge me a fee to cancel.

  39. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    If a company feels is has to have a retention queue (or, much less, if an employee can’t be “valuable” to the company without being an ethically-challenged sleazebag to customers), something is fundamentally wrong. There is something fundamentally wrong if the company is (a) losing a large number of customers in the first place, and (b) has to manipulate, persuade, guilt-trip, sleaze, lie, cheat, and steal to attempt to retain customers. Maybe, um, there is something unsatisfactory about the product, about the quality, about the value customers get for the money they spend? How about maintaining or improving profitability by improving your product or service? (What a concept!) The whole “retention” mentality is insulting, and I agree with previous posters that retention pitches — or any kind of runaround in trying to cancel — are a sure way that I will really and truly never come back, plus badmouth you to others (e.g., I encouraged friends to leave AOL — AOL cancellation hassles left an extremely bad taste in my mouth).

    Nekoincardine’s idea is excellent. We should be rewarding companies that are customer-respectful and do the right thing by making it easy to cancel, and stay the hell away from companies that make it hard to cancel. Oh, the irony — an irony some companies (e.g., AOL) don’t understand yet: If you respect the customer even when the customer wants to leave, you increase the chances of future business because of giving that customer a positive experience (where they are not afraid of engaging with you) and creating a superb reputation (and reputation matters — it translates to dollars and cents). A website or page that lists both the truly, immediately, no-hassle cancelling the account class-acts vs. the evil “retention” style culprits would be a great thing.

  40. chili_dog says:

    As I see it, the problem is that WE are not the customer to th company we are buying product/services from. The Call center and company are the relationship, we consumers are just the ones bringing money.

    Perhaps companies will learn from these mistakes, but I am not putting my money on that bet.

  41. beyond says:

    These companies should realize that even if a customer cancels, leaving them with a positive note can still make them money. I will never do business with many companies ever again simply on principle because of their cancellation or other policies. But companies like Netflix, that has a cancel button right on the website and make it easy and painless. I was their customer again just a few months later!

  42. FLConsumer says:

    TEXASCOURT has it right. Save yourself the aggrivation & headache — just write a certified, return-receipt letter with your request. I’ve yet to have this method fail me. Sure, there’s a cost involved with sending something via certified mail, but it’s far less expensive than my time is worth.

  43. smarty says:

    @FLConsumer: What they said. Call and write a letter to cancel any account. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll get a letter back stating they have closed your account.

  44. mantari says:

    “I’m dying. I only have _x_ days to live.”

  45. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I guess write a letter, and then if it’s not cancelled within 10 business days take it up with the superior court in your county. And then call in, tell the rep to “cancel RIGHT THIS INSTANT and that’s not a question.” and if they give you any kind of runaround, say “It’s a court order. Cancel or you’ll subject yourself to prosecution for contempt charges.”

  46. FLConsumer says:

    Smarty: Why bother calling? The whole purpose of writing is: 1) To get the account actually cancelled, 2) Save myself time & frustration.

    IRSISTHEROOTOFALLEVIL: I usually give them 30 days to reply and confirm my account has been cancelled. This is reasonable and fair and I doubt any court would rule otherwise. 10 days can be too short of a duration for some billing systems.

  47. Noah_Bodie says:

    If you’re calling an 800 number to cancel, remember it’s their dime not yours. Telling them “I just never get the chance to use your service”, whatever it is, seems to avoid some of the hassle of getting you to stay. Anything they offer, you can counter with, “But I don’t use your service now.” If that doesn’t work, or you have to call back, just berate the service and tell ‘em you would not ever recommend them because of their “deceptive trade practices”. [That’s a loaded phrase I like to toss around.] Always report ‘em to the BBB and the FTC. FTC is a total crapshoot. Those guys are overwhelmed with a thousand and one things, and odds aren’t good for your complaint. With BBB I find better results.

  48. Helvetian says:

    I agree with everyone making the point it’s not so easy to quit a job and find a new one overnight, and that some jobs aren’t for everyone.

    It’s fair and suitable for a company to want to save you, especially if you are a high-value customer who brings value to the company. Wouldn’t you want to be saved? Don’t you want the company to want to retain your business? Pperhaps the offer could be very favorable, such as a new 4.9% Fixed APR for purchases on your MasterCard account.

    On the other hand, antagonizing and deceiving customers is not good. And the save offer should be clear, and if they decline, the request should be fulfilled.

  49. aikoto says:

    Companies that use policies and procedures to “encourage” workers to bend and break rules/laws are just as guilty as ones who promote the practices outright.

  50. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I’m basically allergic to allowing people to automatically debit my bank account, though I have two or three carefully monitored agreements with reputable firms in which the money is a set amount taken out on a set day each month.

    Back when I was in my early 20s, I signed up for life insurance premiums to be charged this way. Within two days, my dad had persuaded me to change my mind, so I met in person with the insurance agent and cancelled the agreement… got back the original paperwork and everything. To my surprise, I wound up being charged the next month. I called the agent, who said he fixed it in his records, but couldn’t issue a refund. I disputed the charge with my bank, who said that without a written agreement, the charge should not have gone out.

    Then the next month it happened again. I called the agent and threatened to call the cops on him if it continued (I learned hardball early). What do you know… the next month it didn’t happen. Hmm.

  51. guymandude says:

    I’m afraid I have to weigh in on the side of people who say “get another job”. If you dont’ like how your employer does business… dont’ work for him. I’m sorry you chose to have a shitty job but I have enough problems of my own without having to field yours as well. Handle it…

  52. Televiper says:

    To those who think you can just get up and find another job. Many call centers are based in towns that have extremely low employment rates. Sometimes the call center is the only place that offers a decent wage and enough hours. It really comes down to business should treat their customers ethically. Employee performance should not be in direct contention with the customer satisfaction.

  53. acambras says:

    @mantari:

    “I’m dying. I only have _x_ days to live.”

    “Allrighty then, Mr. Mantari! So we’ve got your subscription extension set for _x_ days! Have a great afternoon and thank you for choosing [whatever business]!”

  54. backspinner says:

    I’m glad that Consumerist is getting smart about putting up posts that show that it’s the corporations that are the fuckers in these situations, not the low level employees. Yes, it is wrong for a CSR to “mistakenly” leave an account open but for those of us who have once been in tough situations like that, there is a little bit of empathy.

    However, on a blog that is dedicated to people consuming things, there will always be a large contigent of “Me! Me! Me!” people who will never be able to imagine walking in the shoes of anyone else less fortunate than themselves.

  55. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    From Jeremyduffy: Companies that use policies and procedures to “encourage” workers to bend and break rules/laws are just as guilty as ones who promote the practices outright. Absolutely. Look at the archives in Consumerist about how AOL’s corporate policies created the monster of rampant retention queue sleaze with quotas and hellacious pressure on employees. (And, I ask again, why was there a retention queue in the first place?) These companies are also aware that some CSRs desperately need the money, and may not easily or readily be able to find a better job, and exploit the hell out of that situation.

    From Beyond: These companies should realize that even if a customer cancels, leaving them with a positive note can still make them money. I will never do business with many companies ever again simply on principle because of their cancellation or other policies. But companies like Netflix, that has a cancel button right on the website and make it easy and painless. I was their customer again just a few months later! See, AOL! Respect for the customer matters; reputation matters; the long term matters. They = profit.

  56. Wormfather says:

    @WhatsMyNameAgain:

    I in no way condone the actions of these call centers, but it needs to be noted that often times these call centers pop up in places where there isnt much of ANY employment. When your making $7ph, driving an hour to go work in a mall isnt really and option (esspecially with gas being so expensive).

    Also, when you dont have much and your trying to feed a family, I’m pretty sure that risking what little job you have and then having to hope that a new job works out is less than appealing, people like you and I are young, we could leave our job and throw caution into the wind, it is only us who will suffer if we’re wrong, but I’d imagine that having kids makes you a little more risk adverse.

    Just my two cents.

  57. Pelagius says:

    @TNT: So, it would seem that if companies didn’t treat cancellation calls as a bargaining tool and instead just cancelled the service, then consumers would no longer have this as a means of leverage and it might save the company money?

  58. DashTheHand says:

    @backspinner: Theres plenty of jobs picking up trash, taking orders at McDonalds, or stocking shelves at KMart. Don’t whine that the only job for people who are ‘unfortunate’ is to sit in a chair in an air conditioned office for 8 hours taking calls from people. THAT is a cush job.

    For all the people that seem to think that its somehow the only means of living, perhaps you’re not living in the best area for your means in that case? Perhaps maybe you should think about NOT having children in that area, or by all means have protected or abstain from sex if you’re not capable of not getting pregnant.

    Its not my fault that you work at a bad job. Its not my fault that your supervisor is a jerk and tells you to lie. Its not my fault that you live in Tornado Alley and need to replace your 17th trailer that ‘mysteriously’ got hit by a (gasp) tornado.

  59. backspinner says:

    @DashTheHand: Yes there are other jobs, but look at them. I spent a lot of my childhood in a Vermont town of 11,000 where the only jobs available were at a $10/hr CSR call center where 40 hours and benefits were guaranteed, or $6, no benefits jobs at fast food restaurants where you would be lucky to get a consistant schedule. What would you do for your kids?

    Abstain from sex? Not reproduce, or do the things that humans are meant to do? Like I said, Me, Me, Me….

  60. jeffj-nj says:

     
     
    No one is going to make me keep service I don’t want. Period. Any attempt to try only wastes both of our time, and I’ll tell that to CSR’s too. If you want to retain some customers today, hurry up and get me off the phone. The sooner you’re talking to someone else, the sooner you’ll actually have a chance of retaining someone today.

    American Express had my back once when an unnamed and unimportant company would not stop charging me. They reversed the first charge I complained about, and banned any others from occuring. This was years ago, but ever since, I have used American Express for ALL of my over-the-phone-or-web purchases … just in case.

    If cancellation ever takes more than one phone call, it’s because the 2nd is to AmEx.

  61. 3drage says:

    Sounds like there are a few solutions to this problem.

    1. Threaten to unionize, if the employer retaliates, walk out….everyone. Not having a call center will cost more than pissed off customers and employees.

    2. Take some of that money you normally spend on Simpsons DVDs and Starbucks and get yourself into a trade school or college. Why should the burden of your future fall on my need to cancel a service from someone? Especially considering that you are allowing your employer to bully you.

  62. delt23 says:

    This article is the equivalent of a car salesman trying to sell me a vehicle stating how he has children and a mortgage to pay so I should just fork over as much cash as possible to a complete stranger for that 1 sale that won’t matter much in a week when his quotas start again.

    I forgot some people forget how hard they really work for their money.

    I have nothing against CSRs so when I argue with them to death over the phone about what I want to do with MY money, I don’t feel bad taking my business where it’s put to better use.

    Leaving a company for any reason should only go to improve customer standards. Perhaps they will learn from their mistakes and realize they can’t treat their employees or their customers as figures.

    I can vouch for that because the company I worked for took great strides in keeping both employee and customer satisfaction up and that more than certainly includes our CSRs.

  63. dclxvi says:

    I have to say, I called to cancel my T-Mobile HotSpot account just the other day, and it took me 5 minutes, including the time on hold and the account lookup process.

    Bravo to T-Mobile’s HotSpot division for making what I feared to be a nightmare into a breeze!

  64. Venkman says:

    How is that not racketeering?

    I mean, seriously– that’s illegal as hell. I’d love to see a couple of these outsourced csr/retention companies get strung up in federal court to scare the rest straight– it’s like the author said, those companies that bother to do a good job in customer service tend to make more money anyways, so why go out of your way to fuck people over? It seems to me that far too much of corporate america defaults to a criminal mindset, especially considering that all too often, doing things on the up and up would be cheaper if not actually profitable.

  65. XStylus says:

    If a company gives you crap and refuses to cancel (coughcoughAOLcoughcough), just call your credit card company, say that you “lost your credit card”, and don’t give the new card number to the company you’re trying to cancel.

  66. majahanson311 says:

    I’ve found that the best way to deal with obstinate CSRs is good cop/bad cop.

    It’s best to actually have two people, because if the person in the bad cop role does it right, they’ve gotten themselves so worked up that they are simply unable to perform the good cop role when the time comes.

    My wife usually plays the bad cop, gradually becoming more abusive and difficult until finally demanding to speak to a supervisor. The CSR gets a supervisor and no doubt warns them what a live wire they have on the phone so the supervisor braces herself. When the supervisor comes on, it’s my turn to talk. I’m all patience, understanding an reasonableness (while still politely insisting on what I want). It’s amazing what you can get done with that approach.

    Also, getting your credit card company to do a chargeback can really get their attention, so I recommend that if nothing else works.

  67. thoughtfix says:

    “I am about to be convicted for murdering a customer support representative who wouldn’t let me off the phone. I will be going to prison for a long time and no longer require this service. Can you cancel this and let me on my way now?”

    “Your call center is in Texas, right?”

  68. wasexton says:

    I have a GREAT idea for customer retention…better customer service! If I need to cancel, do so and perhaps, if your service has been very good, I may return as a customer. Fail to do so and not only will I not return, I will tell everyone I know about the experience as well.

  69. DashTheHand says:

    @backspinner: You are correct. It is completely “Me, me, me” because I am in fact the CUSTOMER. I am the one that provides the money and services to the business that employs you. I will be the one suing your company for deceptive trade practices and fraud when I am continued to be billed after I have been told that whatever was fixed/cancelled has been done.

    Where are you going to be when that company gets hit for a huge fine, is forced to cut back on employees, or does a mass firing of the bad personnel? Just because you are provided a job by an employer that means you are somehow above the laws governing the company itself? There is no excuse for lying to customers as shown quite clearly by the site in which you are posting on. Lies get caught, revealed the public, and things get hairy.

    And on a final note, just because humans CAN do something, doesn’t mean they have to or should. A person can go on a mass killing spree, set things on fire, commit countless other profane acts. That doesn’t mean that because a human can do it means they should. Your argument is weak. Your “me, me, me” retort is just as valid when you are living below your means and decide to have children. Having a child is not a necessity just because you exist, are married, or have some primitive desire to reproduce.

  70. gibsonic says:

    in a commodity market, price dictates everything. Only when price differences decrease and competition increases will customer service improve.

    no matter what they “should” do, the people running their businesses are making calculated decisions about how best to leverage and improve their market position.

    Say you have comcast for high-speed internet and you like just on the edge of town. DSL is out of the question b/c of distance limitations, dial-up is no longer fast enough to keep up with modern website’s demands, and 2-way satellite is too expensive.

    Because there is a significant cost difference between cable internet and satellite internet, comcast has you in a monopolized situation and knows that the demand for their product is so strong that they don’t have to beg for business and can basically get away with not having to properly take care of customers.

    It’s a long term bet, vs a short term bet for these companies. Companies that are driven by stock value are going to do whatever they can do to keep that value up for shareholders and the market. Most top execs primary incoming is from bonus’s tied directly to profitability.

    The fact is that, in some industries, the company doesn’t make any more money for a “happy” customer as they do from a “somewhat disgruntled” customer.

    It’s really a simple supply and demand dynamic. We demand services at low prices with exceptional service. Because of our demands companies are continually trying to find a balance to this while trying to remain profitable.

    As with anything, the more money you pay the better service you get. There is a reason there isn’t a concierge service at the motel 6.

    consumer(and employee) entitlement is the reason companies can no longer afford to operate in the US. Someone has convinced us that we DESERVE the white glove customer service treatment for a service that is low volume, low margin, and commoditized all to hell.

    Companies that have bad customer service have it because the market demands it. If the market REALLY demanded customer service, the cost of goods sold would go up. Since PRICE is the more sensitive variable to service…SERVICE suffers.

    cheers.

  71. csrdefender says:

    A lot of people are saying bad things about customer service here. I’d like to see what these individuals would have to say if, like they want, customer services reps are abolished, and they have an actual problem that they need a CSR to help with. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch. I manager a call center customer service department. Sure, if one of my CSR’s doesn’t attempt to “save” an account, they are reprimanded, but not nearly as much as if they don’t cancel an account per a customer’s request. That’s a terminable offense.

  72. skummy says:

    I too am under the same policies and “retention” methods listed in the article. We refer to is as a save and to listen to the other posts say “it’s my money” and “demand a cancellation”. Well, it is not that easy. We fall under the same pressure from mgmnt. adn make “mistakes” with your account to avoid getting fired. BTW, the particular company I am employed by are college graduates and specialists in their field. They hit low pay because there are NO jobs here. I feel the pain and the consumers too. My advice? READ YOUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

  73. Echodork says:

    Former inbound CSR for Dish Network. Like all other call center monkeys, we were rated on call time, turnover rate, and adherence to script. The one thing you think is the goal of customer service — customer satisfaction — was not found on our evaluation spreadsheets. What effect do you think that has on job performance? Whatever you think, you’re probably right.

    I took 50-70 calls a day, 22 days a month. That’s 1,320 calls a month, six of which were “recorded for quality assurance.” That means that if I screwed with your account, there was only a 0.45% chance that I’d be caught doing it. Sure, someone might find out later and tie my employee number to the mistake, but I could always deny recollection and chalk it up to a “fat finger mistake.” I’d like to tell you I never purposely signed a customer up for HBO against their wishes. I’d like to tell you that, but at the time, keeping my $9/hr job was more important than worrying about your callback.

    However (DASHTHEHAND take note), my favorite calls were the self-important toads who threatened to sue the call center for lost time or extraneous charges. You do that, buddy. Trust me, that call center has a legal team that makes insurance companies look like lemonade stands. I dunno, maybe you think your threat of legal action over $51 in late fees is intimidating. Or maybe you think that because you say you make $200 an hour as a government contractor that you can bill my employer that same rate for the time you sit on hold. You, you, you have a lot to learn about interacting with people if that’s the case :)

  74. DashTheHand says:

    I’ve got three words for thinking that it wouldn’t be intimidating: “Class action lawsuit.”

    But I mean, what company doesn’t like those. I swear they love them just by reading the articles on this site. Fraud is fraud buddy. If it works its way back to someones ‘fat fingers,’ guess whose stubby index is going to be paging through the classifieds? Hah, and if you think some supervisor is going to defend you against the corporate execs wanting a scapegoat for losing that payout to all the people in that lawsuit that had similar complaints due to those ‘accidents,’ wow.

  75. callcenterinsider says:

    Hello, I’m the person who wrote the piece, and thanks to Consumerist for posting it.

    I just wanted to shout back at some of the comments. My intent wasn’t to justify that lying to customers — basically, fraud — is OK because people are under financial pressure. Clearly, it’s not. But at the same time, the companies that have such hardline retention tactics are creating policies that naturally create “mistakes” in their favor and claim, then, that it’s a problem with an individual CSR. No, it’s not; it’s a much larger problem.

    Should CSRs be truthful? Yes. Should they seek other employment? Yes, absolutely; call centers are often soul-crushing places to work. But should companies be responsible for the actions of their undertrained, underpaid, ill-managed employees when they are responding to retention pressures? Yes. That’s the point of what I wrote.

    Companies need to be responsible for what they do. If you create a high-pressure environment where quotas are established, you need to show concern about people who take advantage. I saw with my own eyes that people who were OBVIOUSLY cheating – people who had terrible work ethics, were rude to customers, but had 80% retention rates. These people were rewarded with gift cards, paid time off (which most employees, as temps, never got) and good performance evaluations despite their misconduct. Good employees who were concerned with their customers often fared much worse.

    The fact is that the company, and our client, cared far more about retaining customers than making them happy. As far as they were concerned, if someone cancelled and didn’t like retention, they were lost business anyway.

    You can, and should, avoid dealing with companies who aggressively attempt to retain. If consumers speak out about holding companies accountable, things can change. As it is, most of these companies blame “rogue CSRs” when ultimately their business practices are to blame.

    As for reversing your credit card charges – beware. Our company sent your account to collections if you did that. Also, letter writing reached the same people – the same CSRs – through granted of course retention numbers did not count. Still, many mistakes were made as the expectation was on volume of mail handled, with few quality checks.

    If companies really care about quality of service, it will happen. But, especially when you’re outsourcing, reaching quotas and goals is far more important than if you’re happy or not. Consider the fact that an outsourcer’s true customer is the company – not you. And that customer’s happy with the status quo.

    Think about it. Your personal information and credit card account is in the hands of the lowest bidder. Support companies with good customer service – not only is it good for you, it’s good for their employees and creates the incentive for companies to prioritize customer service.

  76. backspinner says:

    @DashTheHand: I thought I’d clear the air here and let you know that I’m not a CSR, I’m not employed by a business that has this type of Customer Service, and I’m not in a position where I deal with customers. As foreign as this may sound to you, it is possible for some people to understand where others are coming from (even CSRs!) even if you haven’t been in their exact situation. You don’t seem to be one of them. That is the basis of the “Me, Me, Me” comment.

  77. backspinner says:

    @DashTheHand: I wanted to clear the air and let you know that I am not a CSR and I don’t even work for a business that has this type of customer service, since you seem to be under the impression that since I am somewhat defending these employees, I must be one of them. As foreign as this may seem to you, there are some people that are capable of understanding where others are coming from without having been in the same exact situations as them. You and a lot of other people obviously do not have this abilty, and this was the basis of the “Me, Me, Me” comment. Brush up on your reading comprehension before you decide to post again.

  78. mbrutsch says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: “Doing business” in today’s world always amounts to highly unethical behaviour. That’s pretty much the definition of the term. The only way to make money (besides printing it) is to take it from other people. Whether they get something of value for that money is not important.

  79. onepointoh says:

    I believe you’ve got the reason why companies push retention this hard all wrong.

    Churn rate (the rate by which customers leave the company) is a mobile phone operator’s biggest fear. They want to keep their churn rate as low as possible. It’s common knowledge that retaining a customer costs less than finding a new customer. This is especially true for mobile phone operators because of the high competition in this saturated market.

    I was taught that if churn rate is decreased by even a finitessimal amount, you get huge profits: not only does the company not have to spend (relatively) huge amounts of money to find a new customer to replace him, but the old customer also spends more money the longer he stuck with this company. The profits generated by this customer increases as time goes by.

    I believe they’re not pushing customer retention because they would like to make up some of the costs of customer service. They’re pushing customer retention because each customer saved brings with it huge profits in the long run.

  80. rten says:

    Spend more time on producing a quality product without obscure legal rules (arbitration, fine print, other gotchas) and not only would I be less likely to cancel, minor mistakes wouldn’t piss me off so much, because I actually trust the company. I think too much marketing is done to make a sale this quarter at the cost of soured account terms/conditions later on. Change the rules, slip in a slick charge, I will make it my goal to cancel.

    However, for the extra sleazy / profitable parts of a business, I will drag out a cancellation and get every “save” offer they have. Trilegiant is super sleazy and I make about $400 bucks a year on them in free gift cards/services/rebates. Ditto for credit protection on credit cards.

  81. ZonzoMaster says:

    My brother told me AOL changed it’s retention script after the youtube incident, where a guy had to yell “cancel my account” to a CSR several times (yes, it was also con consumerist), now they only ask three times tops and then proceed to cancel (my brother worked for a while as an outsource AOL CSR). So, some companies actually learn, go figure.

  82. The Walking Eye says:

    @skummy: You mean the terms and conditions that are written in extremely small print and full of confusing legal speak that makes everything favorable for the company?

  83. create says:

    i work for time warner cable’s call center, not gonna comment on their retention policies (actually not that bad)

    key thing to remember in these situations is your call is almost always being recorded, especially if it is regarding changes to the account or personal info is discussed or billing… and an easy way to ensure your call is being recorded, make a payment… even if its $1, you make a payment, that call is guaranteed recorded, then cancel, and make sure the rep clearly states services were canceled, this should be true for any company

  84. StevieD says:

    Well written and very explanatory.

    I forgot that retention could be outsourced. This post explains everything about cancelling a service. The poor CSR is actually paid to keep you from leaving, and since the outsource company is being paid based upon their retention rate, it is in nobody’s interest to let you go.

    Even the line that “I am moving to Mongolia” most likely is not good enough to get you out of your contract.

  85. beyond says:

    I think most people already know why their account doesn’t get canceled. CSRs in these situations have no ethics, and the companies don’t want them to. If they did, they wouldn’t work there and screw people over just to keep their job.

  86. beyond says:

    Oh, and when you think about it, CSRs get paid pretty good. A call center will pay its employees $7-9 an hour, yet they have as much skill, education and qualifications as the guy flipping burgers for $5/hr.

  87. Buran says:

    @backspinner: And how exactly does “seeing where they are coming from” excuse lying to paying customers who should come first? Again, if you don’t like the job, quit. Or stop lying. It’s that simple. Oh, and the “I don’t do this myself, I just work for a company that does” is no excuse either. If you work for them, do something about it.

  88. Buran says:

    @callcenterinsider: You sent people to collections when they reversed your now-fraudulent charges? I’m surprised the people who did that didn’t find their asses in jail.

  89. Call more than once to confirm as far as I’m concerned.

  90. mikala says:

    The worse experience I’ve had was with xbox live. You can’t cancel online or in your user account in xbox live, though you can do everything else. To cancel you have to call and speak to a CSR. I called and that poor kid (and he sounded about 18 years old) went on for about 5 minutes with all the reasons why I shouldn’t cancel. I actually got bored with him and stopped listening, when he would stop I would reply, “I want to close the account.” Maybe that kind of thing works with your typical xbox live user.

  91. Anonymous says:

    Ah, I found another great service not allowing customers to cancel their account. How can they believe that tying people in is a good way to retain clients, it just makes me think that I don’t want to use their services ever again. Check out http://www.efax.com, or rather, don’t check out http://www.efax.com ever.