Avoiding Bad Customer Service With AOL

aol.jpgGood customer service gives businesses a good name and most definitely improves their success. Bad customer service is bound to start causing problems and is very much something we want to avoid when we talk about the ‘big picture’ of sustainability.
A great classic moment in bad customer service happened last month to Vincent Ferrari (watch the amazing tape here) when he tried to cancel his AOL account. And the ensuing press prompted AOL to utter a reasonably authentic-sounding apology.
But when the Consumerist got their hands on this fascinating “Retention Manual” the real depth of AOL’s policies started to emerge. The manual specifically refers to cancelation calls as sales leads and reads (allegedly):

If you stop and think about it, every Member that calls in to cancel their account is a hot lead. Most other sales jobs require you to create your own leads, but in the Retention Queue the leads come to you! Be eager to take more calls, get more leads and close more sales. More leads means more selling opportunities for you and cost savings for AOL.

(See Consumerist for the rest)
Now, obviously, any company can be forgiven for making a little effort to try to keep customers from canceling, but if you watch that video, refer to the 2005 case in which AOL was fined $1.25 Million for overly aggressive retention practices, and inspect this amazing document, you see a corporate culture that clearly refuses to learn.
I hardly ever launch into a negative diatribe about anyone, but somtimes you have to hold things up as an example. AOL is probably the worst way possible to access the internet, but manages to sign up millions of subscribers who don’t know any better, or who buy new PCs with the virus-like AOL software pre-installed (Not to mention those mililions of CDs that everyone just throws into the trash). They’ve been losing market share for years, and it’s painfully obvious why.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.