AOL Exec Chimes In About “The Call”

The Washington Post asked Jason Calacanis, an AOL exec and headmaster of Weblogs Inc, what he thought of the infamous AOL call. Here’s our responses, in brevis, to what he blogged.

“From what I understand….this is not the average experience.”


“I’m not involved in the access business at all, so I can’t really speak to the details to be honest.”


“When I look at the AOL logo I hear that call”


“It’s going to go down as a watershed moment for the company.”

Knee chopping.

“Sometimes the darkest hour is before the dawn…”


“…and I think that is what that call will come to symbolize: a new era for the company.”

Try… an unmitigated PR disaster.


Edit Your Comment

  1. We both know it is not the average experience for a call center employee to berate a customer. Sure, you can take AOL to task for the upselling. However, in your own breakdown the call center manual (which I’m psyched you published btw), you quoted the parts that said don’t ever be abusive to the customers.

    If I could make my statement a little more clear for you it is as follows: the abuse the customer took in this call is not the average experience–not by a a long shot. Does AOL upsell? Of course, everyone does.

    Now, I think at a certain point the upselling has to stop. Perhaps, like, ummm, maybe the 3rd or 4th time the person says “CANCEL THE ACCOUNT.”

    Anyway, bravo to you guys for sticking it to AOL… the scrutiny you guys are putting us under is what will make us a better company.

    If I was the CEO of AOL I would create 10 AOL accounts and then record cancellation call of all 10 of them and post them to my blog just to keep everyone on their toes.

    When folks call us it should be a chance for us to be gracious and cool with the customers–to bond with them. As you know, I responded to tons of customers support emails that come into Weblogs, Inc. and Netscape.

  2. AcilletaM says:

    Jason, how about after the person turns down the first attempt at up-selling/retention? All businesses try to up-sell or try to retain customers. We get that. We learn that in our first jobs where we have to ask if people want fries with that. When we call we expect some attempt to keep us from leaving. Fine. After that first attempt though, it should really stop. How is anything more not going to leave a bad taste in our mouths? When I tried to cancel my AOL account in the late 90’s, I was told my account was canceled even though the billing continued. Yeah, I got it fixed and no, I didn’t lose any money. I don’t have the rabid hate for AOL many people have but every time I see AOL or one of its products, I remember the hassle and I start viewing everything with some skepticism.

    Now is the Ferrari call the “average” experience? You may be able to argue that it was not the average call but I think the only thing you’re winning here is an argument in semantics. I believe you would have a hard time disagreeing with labeling this call “common”, as in occurring habitually.

    So here’s the thing that affects you most. There is a group of people, unknown in size, but not unknown in their experiences with AOL’s failed customer service opportunities. How can AOL try to reinvent itself to stay current with this tainted user base? More specifically, your potential Netscape user base. What can you possibly do to overcome that hole your company continues to dig for you?

    And Jason, you don’t need to be CEO of AOL to open 10 AOL accounts periodically and then cancel them and post the results of these exercises to your blog. You can do that right now.

  3. AcilletaM:

    1. I think “one and done” upsell policy would great. I’m going to suggest it… in your example McDonald’s doesn’t ask you twice if you want fries (or to supersize).

    2. You’re right that I don’t need to be the CEO to do my own tests–maybe I will do that!

    3. I hope Consumerist readers record every single call they make to AOL and post them all here. I like living in a transparent world where people own their actions–what CEO wouldn’t?

    4. What I can do to overcome the problems we face is:

    a) make great products
    b) treat our customers like Gods
    c) be hyper-transparent about how we run out business.

    That’s what I’ve been trying to do. If I’m open about all these issues and discuss them in public it will encourage other AOL execs to be open. Trust me, I’ve been at AOL for 9 months and I can tell you that big companies are used to the level of transparency that folks like me and Nick Denton use when running out businesses. It’s gonna take time, but I’ve made a ton of progress.

  4. JamesAvery says:

    You claim the majority of users of embrace the reimagining of Netscape into the current social news portal. If that’s the case, why is it that the very audience you are trying to court — the Web 2.0 and “social web/interactive” audience — are the ones posting thousands and thousands of negative feedback?

    If the people that embrace social news sites and interactivity/commenting on stories are the ones that love the new site, where are their overhwhelming comments in favor of these changes? Why do the comments always lean so extremely heavily on the negative side?

    The point I am getting at is that you’re not listening to the true majority feedback of your users at all. Isn’t that the same sin committed by the AOL rep in not letting the customer cancel his subscription?