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Customer Disservice
(Marketing Memo, February, 2007)

The PC took an agonizing 2+ minutes to load a new document. The diagnosis--spyware! Apparently, the three name-brand utilities installed on the PC had let the spyware slip by. Diagnosing the problem, removing the spyware, and installing more effective freeware took a computer consultant over two hours.


Just as the legendary apprentice could not turn off the water, the frustrated PC owner has not been able to get rid of the unwanted utilities. A month before the expiration date, the software vendor had automatically renewed the subscription, ignoring emails that said, "Cancel!" Frustrated, the owner called the vendor, only to get stuck in voice mail purgatory. Ten days later the vendor emailed back, "We cannot cancel the subscription because we cannot find you in our records."

Two weeks later a Visa bill arrived. The software company had double-billed the owner for the unwanted software. Eventually, customer service promised to cancel the subscription. However, the next month's Visa bill credited just one of the subscriptions. The saga continues.


Frustrated customers talk a lot about poor service, and they often tell eight to nine people about their dissatisfaction. Here are some tips for providing service, not disservice:

--- Make sure that your product or service performs as advertised. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should detect and remove problematic documents.
--- Instruct staff to respond to customer calls and email messages within one or two days, maximum, and give them the tools to address customers' problems.
--- Avoid automated communications systems that give customers no way to call or email customer service directly.
--- Keep good customer records and establish a good retrieval system. Include subscription and contract start and stop dates, and record all interchanges with the customer.
--- If you typically renew subscriptions or contracts automatically, remind the customer when the current subscription or contract ends and when you will automatically renew it.
--- Give customers sufficient warning, but do not ask them to renew or re-enroll six months before their service terminates. You are not in the finance business.
---< Offer several ways to subscribe or unsubscribe. Make cancellation procedures easy to follow.

Finally, inculcate a can-do attitude. No one wants to do business with a company that says it cannot help its customers.

When do you use "myself," and when do you use "me"? Send an email to Ask for "It's a Rare Dog that Knows It's Master: Using Pronouns Correctly."
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