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There oughtta be a commandment: Treat thy customers well!

| A charge came through on my credit card today to renew my internet phone service — voice-over-IP (VoIP) which I obtain from a company confusingly named VoIPo — and was surprised to be getting a bill in April for a service that I distinctly remembered having started at the beginning of a year, so I logged on to check my account.

Sure enough, my initial service agreement was for the year 2010, and in November of that year I had taken advantage of a cyber-Monday promotion to extend it for two years. Which did not explain why I was getting a bill in April.

billing history

I opened chat and posed my question. It seems that an additional three months had been tacked onto my first year by virtue of using a promotional code when I signed up, thereby setting my renewal date at April 1 instead of January 1. OK, that's all well and good.

But, in getting to my account particulars I had passed the home page which carried the following offer:

promo

[10:27 AM] Paul Williamson: You know, I'm looking at the home page: 2yrs @ $149, but I'm paying $185 for ONE year? How much sense does that make?

[10:28 AM] VOIPo Support: .... That being said, we can add the second year to this renewal to extend to you this promtional offer.

[10:29 AM] Paul Williamson: Thank you. It would be so inconvenient to have to cancel then sign up again for a new account!

That was easy! With a few keystrokes, my one-year renewal became a "3 day only promotion" (see above) giving me two years instead of one. But I should not have had to ask!

So many companies do this — cell phone companies, cable companies, credit card companies, and so on — offering sweet deals in hopes of enticing new customers, all the while ignoring their existing customers. You can pay your credit card bill on time every single month for years and years, but your credit card company will never lower your interest rate unless you call up and ask or threaten to cancel your account. Imagine the effect if you got a note from your credit card company that said, "You've paid your bills on time for the past year, so we're lowering your interest rate." Would you be more- or less-inclined to use that card? Would you be more- or less-apt to tell your friends about that card? Imagine if your cable company sent you an email saying, "We've lowered the price of the package you subscribe to, so we'll be adjusting your bill in the future." 

snake oil salesman

Companies never do this, so we respond by regarding them as the snake-oil salesmen they seem to be, more concerned about their bottom lines than satisfying their customers. Make no mistake: companies exist to make a profit, but the best companies do that by looking for ways to delight their customers. If you delight them you will keep them. And if you keep them, you will prosper. It is axiomatic in business that it costs far more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one (five to seven times more according to most surveys). 

That notwithstanding, too many companies, in hopes of short-term growth, allocate their resources to the pursuit of new subscribers, new customers. So what if they lose some old ones, the thinking goes, we'll replace them with a greater number of new ones.

When will they learn? Apparently never. And that's no April fool.

Last updated on Apr 29, 2016

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