Why culture is important to customer service – vonage example

Unfortunately I had to have our Vonage phone line canceled today. I was a big supporter of Vonage when they first launched, I felt they had a great value proposition – fixed price unlimited calling nationwide with low cost international calling and lots of cool online features to manage voice mails and call forwarding etc. I thought this was innovative new approach in a market dominated by monopoly style businesses.

But it seems at least for us they could not deliver on the basic need of a clear high quality call. So I asked our office manager to cancel our service.

What happened next was not an AOL type experience like below……

But it was unpleasant, the agents are obviously trained to try and retain you as a customer so they try and diagnose the problem and send you to customer support if its technical or offer a reduced rate. Meanwhile our office manager was getting frustrated just trying to get one of a thousand tasks done…

I think companies should really rethink this strategy, are there better ways to deal with exiting customers? Yes some can be saved but how do you treat the ones that just want to cancel?

Companies have two options:

1. Try as hard as possible to aggressively salvage the customer through different offers and risk leaving customers with a bad taste in their mouths

2. Just ask the customer permission to understand why they are canceling, if they are irritated just thank them for their business and process their request as fast as you can at least the customer does not feel like they were held hostage and if the customer divulges honestly why they are leaving the company has a chance to fix it.

These are really difficult areas of customer service to manage but ultimately the culture of the organization determines the tone that is set in all customer dealings. If the culture is one that supports a primary focus on delivering value for customers then when it is clearly not delivering it will take those opportunities as a chance to improve.

What do you think, does culture impact customer service?

Here are some great sources of information on building a customer service culture:

From: Customer Service Zone, Inc. Magazine and  Businessweek

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