Confessions of a Former AOL Retainer


I used to work for AOL doing ‘retention’…”

Come closer, my child.

In her letter, Tari, confirms the manual is bonafide. Also, according to her, most retention specialists would much rather skip over all the “discovery” and “rapport building” and get straight to the part where they give you a discount so you won’t leave. But having spent all this time writing such an exhaustive manual, AOL gets a bit miffed (read: fires your ass) if you don’t follow their elaborately constructed retention rubric.

And like most operations of its ilk, they show you its dark side inch by inch until one day you wake up with blood on your hands, a black cloak on the nightstand and no memory of how the sacrificed babies got in the bed, to wit, “i worked for a call centre contracted to do the retention and wasn’t told that it was a sales job when i was hired…”


i used to work for AOL doing ‘retention’ and also for MSN doing the same thing.

to be more accurate, i worked for a call centre contracted to do the retention and wasn’t told that it was a sales job when i was hired. it was hilarious when the call centre, which was doing AOL stuff won the MSN contract. they BUILT A WALL to keep staff separate. anyway, almost all retention is contracted out, but AOL execs visit and listen to calls remotely and provide strict guidance. the sales pitches and manuals are written by AOL and also, the call centre trainers are trained by AOL. these AOL marketing people are really stupid and have very fixed minds and don’t want to listen to feedback from the people who actually take the calls.

anyway, i can verify that manual you mention is 100% accurate. they even make 11×17 inch cardboard ORANGE and PURPLE posters which are posted in the cubicles. punishment is swift and severe for those who don’t follow the 6 steps, up to and including termination. most of the staff wants to immediately cancel memberships, but they are harassed and abused by supervisors when they do. it’s called ‘counselling’ and you only get a few chances to stop ‘screwing up’ before you’re out the door.

there is also another method for keeping lots of customers that can work to the advantage of the company and to the member. everyone is happy, it goes like this: what a lot of the workers want to do is skip over all the crap and get right to the ‘right offer’ which is where you offer them free months, as many as three, and a reduction in monthly fees. many people who call do so because U$23.90 is too much for them. when they tell you it is too much, why put them thru hell, is the thought of lots of the staff, why not just say, “if you’re willing to stay for x months, i can lower your monthly fee to x”? so what happens is that they gamble that they are not being listened to and just make the offer. and almost always, it is accepted, and the customer is pleased, both at getting free stuff, paying less and not getting hassled. plus time is not wasted, and company gets to keep a customer. but that’s not allowed.

lots of people who do want to cancel for other reasons and who come in hostile can actually be won over and got to stay just by skipping the really stupid steps and offering a free month or two and lowering the price for them. and if this is the case, why put them through tons of stupid stuff? the staff know this but AOL execs don’t want to listen. all the steps can be skipped just by saying: something along the lines of, “i see by your records that you’ve been with AOL for a long time. as you know, it’s great for doing research whether for work or school, and we’re really kid-friendly. we have virus protection built-in now and we’re adding new features all the time, like legal music and movie downloading. if you’d be willing to stay with us, what i can do for you is give you a x months free and see what i can do about getting you a lower monthly fee.” no rigmarole, just straightforward info and a decent offer.

but NO, that’s not what AOL’s execs want and the call centre managers know it is a crock too, but they go along so they can keep the contract.


it’s too bad i just tossed all my printed materials for AOL and MSN or i’d mail them to you so you could get a nice good laugh.

kind regards,