Confirming rumors that it itself spread, America Online formally announced plans to give away email and other previously subscriber-only service for free at AOL.com.
Tricks an AOL retainer used to keep people from cancelling:
After we uploaded an AOL retention manual, AOL says “No Comment” to its authenticity in an article in today’s New York Times “What’s Online” section:
In August of 2005, America Online settled with the office of NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over complaints about how arduous AOL made it to cancel service. In addition to a $1.25 million fine, AOL agreed to streamline the cancellation process and submit all calls for third-party review. On June 13, 2006, Vincent Ferrari posted a recording he made of his attempt to leave America Online. It shot to national TV and revealed AOL hadn’t learned the error of its ways. For “John,” the call center employee heard on the tape, to deploy the kind of mental warfare heard on the tape, he had to be well-trained…
Here’s the video of us on Nightline along with Vincent Ferrari this past Friday, July 14th. People seem to enjoy the part where we say “So?” We like it when Vincent says “Vent their spleen!” Though we really wished they included our metaphor about crack rocks. Nightline definitely nails the best rendering of the cancel call we’ve seen. They re-edited the recording to leave in the juicy bits, then present the transcript with snazzy bubbles.
This is not the AOL manual. So acclimated to squirting off-the-cuff posts, throwing haymakers at peccadilloes, the prospect of three-plus pages, single-spaced, is a bit daunting. It needs more editing and is sleeping soundly in a drawer. The material is so wrong, we have to make sure we do it right.
We’re putting the finishing touches on our big post on the AOL manual but wanted to release this sneak peak…
NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, pictured at right, throwing up gang signs (see the A and G his hands form?) will meet with AOL executives to discuss whether the company still impedes customers trying to cancel their accounts, Reuters reports.
Another gemstone that tumbled out of the AOL retention coal mine after Vinny’s call is this update to the ominously monikered, “Offer Matrix.” That’s apparently the sequence of goodies doled out to customers to dissuade them from stopping service. Take the red prophylactic, Neo.
A disgruntled employee mailed in a triptych of AOL internal emails that followed the cancellation call heard round the world, finally launching the call’s recorder, Vincent, onto The Today Show, CNBC, CNN and even generated a comic strip, a Playboy parody video, and finally, our “Where is he now?” interview.
Our good friend Vincent Ferrari — the shameless self-promoter who recorded the AOL Cancellation call, tipped us, then tipped everyone else on the Internet before we could even get Boing Boinged (but we totally adore him anyway) — sent us word that he’s done a few more cancellation calls, this time for credit cards, with far better results. And by better results, we mean worse from the perspective of pure entertainment. But good service is what matters, right?
Vincent Ferrari was nice enough to come down to Gawker HQ and answer a few questions about his ordeal, AOL and what’s next for our famous AOL canceller. He may have been nice on national broadcast, but we get him to open up and talk a lil’ smack-a-roony. Plus, he’s got some things up his sleeve that might put the hurt on AOL even more so than his Dear John call…
The Church of the Customer Blog — a site we don’t link nearly as much as we read it — has an excellent vivisection of a negative WoM campaign, using our own favorite AOL canceler Vincent Ferrari as their still writhing subject: