New York Times article on canceling AOL

Interesting article in today’s New York Times about Vincent Ferrari’s “ordeal” in canceling AOL. As you may recall, this is the guy who had the good fortune to record his phone call with AOL and got way more than 15 minutes worth of attention over it.

The attention wasn’t due to Mr. Ferrari’s unique situation. It was due to the fact that his situation magnified a problem that has been there all along. Everyone who has ever tried knows that canceling AOL is torture, now there’s recorded proof that we who have braved the waters are not alone.

The New York Times reports that despite the fact that many other companies allow subscribers to cancel easily, even online, AOL still refuses to change their practices in a substantive way:

After the embarrassment of Mr. Ferrari’s call, an internal memo was issued that outlined a new “streamlined offer sequence” for handling cancellation requests, but the protocol still called for pitching two offers, if circumstances permitted.

Ridiculous.

I’m still waiting for word of John’s “wrongful termination” suit. If this is a “new” procedure, that tells me the “old” procedure wasn’t so streamlined.

How about AOL let people cancel online or in a quick (under 2 minute) phone process, but then follow up in email with the enticing “we want you back” offers tailored to whatever reason they checked online for why they were canceling? They canceled because they weren’t using the service? Then send an email telling about a new feature. They canceled because of price? Then send a six months free offer or something. But when they call up to cancel, that’s what they want to do. Period. Let them. Wait a couple of weeks until they’re living without it to start the pitches. Let the body cool a bit. I’m much more likely to give in to such offers if the company hasn’t made me furious by stalling me in a phone call.

And this is funny:

A company like AOL must now submit to unceasing accountability. On the Monday after the public debut of Mr. Ferrari’s call to AOL, Scott Falconer, an AOL executive vice president, sent an e-mail message to company employees alerting them to Mr. Ferrari’s blog post and warned, “On any interaction, you should assume that it could be posted on the Web.”

Hello?!? This is a life lesson, people: “On any interaction, you should assume that it could be posted on the Web.” It’s hysterically funny that it took this for AOL to figure that out.

Another life lesson: The easiest way to cancel AOL is not to start in the first place.

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3 thoughts on “New York Times article on canceling AOL

  1. The whole episode has been interesting, but to me more showbiz than substance. I dislike AOL a lot, certainly have never been a supporter. But over the long span of time I have been on line I have been an AOL subscriber three different times.

    Each of the three times that I cancelled have been satisfactory experiences. On all three occasions the service reps made polite attempts to keep me, explained options to keep my membership in different forms, and then politely acquiesced to my request. One could hardly expect them not to attempt to hold members … that’s what they are there for.

    I could also make a blanket statement that a great many on and off line companies could take a lesson from AOL in providing accessible customer service … the wait times are less than many other 800 number call lines and I have never had anyone as poor in English skills than say my credit card company.

    I hate to appear to be an AOL defender but Mr.. Ferrari’s little charade was carefully designed to gain him publicity. “John” may have undoubtedly gone about some things the wrong way but Mr. Ferrari confused him by first stating he was canceling because he wasn’t using the account, but in fact the account had substantial current use. When queried on that, Ferrari acknowledged that his father was using the account. that’s when John asked to speak to Ferrari senior, one of the points taken completely out of context by the media. If someone calls and says they wish to cancel the account their parent is using is it so far beyond the pale that the account rep should ask to speak to that parent, the actual user (if not the bill payer) of the account?

    I dunno … I didn’t know who Vince Ferrari was before this episode and I still don’t, except I see that he’s a blogger … as you and I are. I hope I never distort the truth as much as Vince did just to gain readership.

    I know this comment won’t be popular, because the Blogosphere is primarily populated by “me toers” who like nothing better than you jump on popular causes, but somewhere in all the hyperbole there ought to be a few people who value the truth over sensation.

  2. Judi Sohn says:

    I know this comment won’t be popular, because the Blogosphere is primarily populated by “me toers” who like nothing better than you jump on popular causes, but somewhere in all the hyperbole there ought to be a few people who value the truth over sensation.

    If you read what I wrote, Dave, I’m not that far away from you. I don’t think John should have been fired, and that was the point of my entry (and the one before). Mr. Ferrari got his 15 minutes and then some out of an experience that at its heart wasn’t all that unusual. I have canceled AOL twice and one time the CSR did keep me on the phone for far longer than she should have trying to get me to change my mind.

    What generated the traffic wasn’t his unique situation, it was all the folks who had similar stories to tell. That isn’t “me too’ing” for the sake of “me too’ing.” That’s a whole lot of people who have had similar experiences joining in. I wouldn’t have blogged it at all if I didn’t know from personal experience that this happens.

  3. When queried on that, Ferrari acknowledged that his father was using the account. that’s when John asked to speak to Ferrari senior,

    Just out of curiosity, did you actually listen to the recording? When he said my father was using the account for 80% of the hours in the prior month, I told him “He doesn’t even have the software on his computer.”

    I’d love to know how that equates to acknowledging the usage. Please feel free to explain that one to me.

    My father was quite surprised, after all this to A: Hear he was still using the account he thought was cancelled two years ago, and B: Using it as much as the guy said.

    Showbiz? Maybe, but I can tell you from the commenters on my site, lots of people are quite pleased with how easy it is to cancel AOL for now. Maybe it did get something done. Who knows…

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