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Don't Abandon Your Brand, Even In Tough Times
Like millions of other consumers these days, I realized my landline phone service was superfluous. So this morning I called AT&T (ATT) to cancel it.
The conversation started innocuously. “Hello, Miss Anne,” the perky rep said after verifying that I was who I said I was.
We went through the expected “Let’s make a deal” with the rep trying to sell me on a plan that would bundle a cheaper landline plan along with the internet service I'm keeping. But why spend even $10 a month for something I don’t need? I passed on the offers and reiterated that I wanted to cancel my phone service.
Undeterred, the rep pushed on, even though I was clearly annoyed and had told her several times I wanted to cancel my service.
Rep: [Still sounding perky]“Do you have DVR service?”
Rep: “Because if you have DVR service it won’t work after you cancel your landline.”
Me: “I don’t care. Please cancel it.”
Rep: "I could give you a lower rate than what you’re paying for Internet service alone."
Me: "That’s okay. I just want to go ahead and cancel it."
Rep: [Sounding sarcastic] “Why wouldn’t you want to save money?”
Me: “[Sounding pissed.] "I don’t want to discuss this anymore. Cancel my phone service."
Rep: [Sounding pissed.] ”I’m trying to help you do that.”
Me: "No you’re not. You’re trying to sell me a different plan."
Rep: "Why wouldn’t you want a plan that gives you free phone service?"
Me: "How long is it free?"
Rep: "Well the price on your internet service wouldn’t change"
Me: "What about the phone service?"
Rep:"It would go up after 6 months."
Me: "I don’t want it. Please cancel it. Just cancel it."
Rep: "That’s what I’m doing."
But she was simply looking for another angle. After another minute or two of verbal wrestling I couldn't take it any more. I hung up.
I called back and got a different rep.
Me: “Look, I just spoke to someone about cancelling my phone service and finally hung up because they wouldn’t do it. Would you please cancel my phone service? I don’t want to talk about different service plans. I just want to cancel it.”
Rep #2: I’m sorry about that. [Pause.] Do you have DVR service?
It took me about 30 minutes, including hold times and both conversations, to finally get my landline service cancelled. Rep #2 wasn’t as aggressive as the first rep, but the hostility when he finally ran out of his phone script was palpable. (I do worry a little that my internet service will also be cancelled ‘by mistake.’)
So, where am I going with all this?
AT&T recently announced it was cutting 4% of its workforce – 12,000 jobs, because of a “shrinking economy and consumer spending reductions.” Of course they should to try to retain all the business they can. But long term, AT&T will be more successful selling new services that consumers want rather than trying to persuade consumers to retain services they don't need.
Times are tough for consumers too. They are more circumspect than ever about what they spend their shrinking dollars on and with whom they spend it. They're not likely to appreciate a protracted struggle to cancel their landline service on top of the increased stress they're under. Smart companies will stick to a brand strategy of connecting with consumers, instead of focusing only on what they want from them.