I’ve tried unsuccessfully to cancel my eldest daughter’s Gymboree membership for the past three days. Gymboree’s process to cancel is as follows:
- Call the Gymboree location
- They *email* you a form to print, fill out, and return
- fill out that form, and either: 1) Turn it into that location, or 2) fax it into the number on the form
Once you cancel, they charge you an additional month for tuition. Their service does not bill in arrears; it bills for that coming month. So, once you cancel, you are still paying for another month of service for a product you have cancelled.
And that’s if they acknowledge that you’ve turned in the form on time. You see, here’s how it goes:
- We got the form on Friday (1 August 2014).
- Emily filled it out and faxed it using HelloFax on Saturday.
- The fax number was disconnected.
- Hello Fax tries again automatically on Sunday; fax number is still disconnected.
- Emily emails it Sunday (3 August 2014).
We get billed today, 4 August, for 4-August to 4 September.
Now, We have not yet gotten confirmation of cancellation. That’s important, because if they receive it today, they’re going to charge us an additional month, effectively turning a 30 day cancellation into a 60 day cancellation (Since we’ll be charged for September as well):
And that’s just the latest example of a company throwing roadblocks in a customer’s way in the name of profit. Comcast was recorded doing something similar just a week ago. In an internal Comcast memo, the COO, Dave Watson, even says the process was put into place on purpose:
The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do,” continues Watson. “He tried to save a customer, and that’s important, but the act of saving a customer must always be handled with the utmost respect.
4. Offer discounts to accounts before they churn. If you analyze your cohort retention rates, you might discover a certain timeframe that has an increased level of churn. Some products won’t have this — they’ll consistently churn out the same percentage every month. But if yours does, you can consider proactively and automatically offering discounts based on their continued usage. This is undoubtedly risky and should only be considered if you have some serious churn issues (which you should hope to eventually correct with product improvements). You should also make sure they have to jump through some minimal hoops to get the discount (like filling out a more in-depth satisfaction survey). Bonus points for driving them to tweet/like the fact that you just gave them an unexpected discount.
5. Require a reason for downgrades and cancellations. If you don’t know why a customer is leaving you, it’s really hard to figure out how to increase future satisfaction. And making the downgrade reason optional means most people will just skip it. Turn mandatory responses into direct tickets that your customer team can categorize and hopefully follow up on (just like they do with your satisfaction surveys). The right follow-up can often rescue a customer. Finally, the right language goes a long way too — be sure to communicate how important this information is to you and how much you appreciate the favor.