Today we may be celebrating the winners of 2013's CRM Excellence Awards from Gartner and 1to1 Media, but when it comes to bad service and untrustable behavior there still seems to be more than enough to go around. And these days, with all the interactivity, product reviews, and social media conversations about brands, some companies' untrustable policies just seem so...20th Century.
You’d think that a vendor officially designated to represent a branch of the US government would be scrupulously honest, for instance. But think again.
Amazon.com and other forward-thinking companies make automatic refunds to customers when appropriate, even without a customer contacting them, but not Stamps.com, an online postage vendor sanctioned by the US Postal Service. For $15.99 a month, Stamps.com lets you buy your postage online and print it on to labels and envelopes with your computer, but just try to cancel your subscription and you’re in for a fight.
Apparently Stamps.com is one of those companies (like AOL, Vonage, and a few others) where the customer loyalty program consists of making it highly inconvenient to quit. You can subscribe online, but to quit you have to call in, so they can put you through a long phone queue and (if you persist) an argument.
The other day I received an email from a colleague reporting that several months ago he had signed up for Stamps.com. He emailed me because he had read Martha Rogers’ and my book Extreme Trust, where we argue that everyone’s standard for what constitutes honest behavior is going up, because we are so much more interconnected than before. Increasingly, consumers are coming to expect companies to be trustable, or “proactively trustworthy” (like Amazon, with its automatic refunding policy) and my colleague felt I would be interested in his story.
He said that after failing to get the software to work with his Apple laptop (admittedly a few years old), and striking out with their tech support, he basically lost patience and “forgot they were billing me $15.99 a month until I noticed a charge this month on my bill.”
When he finally got a rep on the phone, despite the fact that he had never once bought a cent of postage, the rep would only credit him for the current month’s subscription fee. An argument ensued, the dispute escalated to the supervisor, and finally the company agreed to refund half of what he had paid them for a service that didn’t work and which he never used.
CNET’s download reviews show a multitude of comments about the difficulty of quitting Stamps.com, so there’s no telling how much of this NASDAQ company’s revenue actually comes from bogus subscribers who don’t (or can’t) use the service but just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to quit.
Quoting from my colleague’s email:
“It took me about 25 minutes to cancel my account, including about five minutes spent looking in vain for a way to cancel my account online.
The first rep did a warm transfer to a supervisor, but then the supervisor still had to ask for my account number, even though the rep had previously ‘verified’ me.
I was given separate 12-digit reference numbers for the two discussions, even though for me it was one phone call.
The supervisor made it clear she was doing me a BIG favor by refunding half my money. Ordinarily, she said, they don't refund more than one month's fees.
I literally mentioned your book in both discussions, and explained that it would be easy for Stamps.com to run a report of, say, all the customers who signed up but never logged online within the first three or four months. They could, I suggested either make a courtesy call, send an email, etc. Both listened politely then basically said: we don't do that.”
Stamps.com doesn’t do that. But Amazon.com does. Gosh, now which of these companies do you think is more likely to be around in 20 or 30 years?