I don’t know how to make this any clearer for you: cancel my account!

Saw Vincent on the Today Show this AM. He’s the guy that taped his call to AOL to cancel his account. It’s one of those things you have to listen to, to believe.

Here’s the blog post

Here’s the call

AOL’s apology

Here’s his appearance on the Today Show (I was having some trouble with the link, suspect due to traffic)

I haven’t ever had a call this bad, but it did remind me of the call I have from the Seattle Times this past weekend. I get the Sunday paper. I didn’t tape the call but this is roughly how it went:

Her: May I please speak with Mrs. Hamilton

Me: This is she.

Her: This is so and so from the Seattle Times. We want to thank you from being a loyal subscriber, blah blah. We’d like to offer you the paper on Saturdays and Mondays for free for x weeks.

Me: I’m not interested, thanks. I won’t read it.

Her: But it’s free.

Me: I don’t want it.

Her: All you would have to do is call us after x weeks and cancel if you don’t want it.

Me: I don’t want it now. I won’t read it. I don’t want to have to call anyone to cancel anything.

Her: But it’s free.

Me: I’m…Not…Interested

Arggggh, “free” is not the answer to everything! My question is this: are they teaching them not to listen, just hiring people that have poor listening skills or is there some kind of contest to keep the customer on the line for a certain period of time? I heard that if you say “no” to a sales call 3 times, they have to hang up. Not sure if that is true.

Comments (21)

  1. Paul says:

    Sadly to say, it’s not the case that a rep must disengage after 3 no’s.  If fact, sales reps are taught that on average, they will hear 5 no’s before they hear a yes (different sales gurus differ on the number of no’s, but they all agree that it is many).  So persistence, and ability to face rejection are considered key selling skills.

    Unfortunately, that’s the only lesson a lot of lesser skilled sales folks take from their boot camp exercises in how to approach a prospect.  They forget that:

    a) the no’s don’t necessarily all come from the same person

    b) badgering someone who has emphatically said no, and doesn’t have a need or desire is counterproductive and annoys everyone

    c) the most important thing is that the prospect is qualified

    d) probing for true objections to a pitch is not the same thing as repeating the same pitch over and over

    See this short article from entrepreneur magazine for a discussion of "getting past no".   It is probably the most common thing written about sales, and probably the most poorly done.


    I find that if they don’t listen to the first polite ‘no thanks’, that telling them I’m on the ‘do not call’ list and simply hanging up works.

  2. Zapper says:

    It is not that they "teach" them anything…

    The job sucks. I did it for a day in college.

    You sit in a little room with a phone and an autodialer. It dials the phone as soon as you hang up from your last call.

    You have to get a certain number of people to agree to take the deal, or buy a subscription.

    They have "supervisors" that are constantly walking around harassing you to try harder, sell more, etc. They are continually questioning why you hung up so soon, why you did not point out that it was free, etc.

    Not a fun time..I actually left in the middle of the day on my second day, did not even go back for the paycheck…

  3. Chris says:

    I just say,  "no I am not interested." And then I hang up before they can say anything else!

  4. I hate those calls! I seem to be getting more and more of them.  I fundamentally try and make a point to never be rude to people in the service industry or that contact me in a sales role.  It’s a job…and hey most people are doing it to help get through school (like I did) or make an honest living.

    However it makes me angry when people take advantage of you for being polite and continue to harass you by ignoring your direct statements of "No I am not interested in your product or service".

    There should be a mandatory rule that if a person says no twice the person must disengage.  Otherwise less assertive people get taken advantage of and that is something that can make even me angry and potentially rude.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    based on what Zapper says, it makes me feel bad for them. So I have to say that when I was in college, I did phone work for a non-profit. I was renewing memberships so the calls were warm, but at the same time, I understand the dynamics. Though we had old-fashioned phones…no auto-dialer.

    I’m with Amanda…I try not to be rude if possible. I try not to hang up if possible. "No thanks" turns into "I’m not interested". By the time I get to "I’m…not…interested", I’ve already said it several times and it’s getting ridiculous. It has to get at least a little ridiculous for me to hang up on someone.

  6. Paul says:

    Must be a gender difference thing.  I am much more impatient, especially when I have previously made the point that I don’t take telemarketing calls.

    I suspect many of us have done the ‘dialing for dollars’ trick at some point, although I would never ever do it for a sweatshop harrassing consumers at home.  B2B is a bit different, but you’d be surprised how many people will immediately hang up or shout at you or worse without even expressing a polite ‘no thanks’ in a business context.  I think most guys are much more likely to hang up after the first polite gesture, and not think it is rude.

    Zapper offers some instructive clues.  The person on the other end knows they’re being rude, but they don’t care.  The longer they keep you on the line, the more likely you’ll relent and buy something so you don’t have to be rude.  Elderly people are especially vulnerable to this high pressure tactic because they grew up in a time when everyone was a lot more civil.  I suspect the same is true of women who are reluctant to just hang up after they’ve said ‘no’ once.

    They’re knowingly taking advantage of your niceness.

  7. Ben says:

    First off, I’m sorry but I do believe that the caller was predisposed to have a bad situation. He really didn’t make  an effort to make this a courteous call either.

    Yes, it may be annoying that the rep insisted on not closing the account.

    However, the previous posts point to no training being offered to the Call Center personnel. While on the contrary, they probably have several classes on sales and why not even marketing. Sure they didn’t recieve their education from a top ten grad school. However, I’m certain that the rep was trying to sell him a better plan or service. If only the caller had been "nice" enough.

    The customer adquisition cost is one of the main factors driving the cost of these companies. It’s a lot cheaper to retain than to obtain customers.

    About the script he had to read. Most companies will do this when you buy, cancel, or close a service. It’s mandated by different governing bodies and is done to avoid litigation. Try buying a protection plan from American Express and you’ll also get a script read to you as well as have your confirmation recorded.

    Why is our attitude different going into a service than on the way out?

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ben- I thought the customer was perfectly fine. I understand the company wanting to know why he is canceling, but the customer shouldn’t have to prove it. Once he gives his answer, that should be it. yuo can’t keep a customer against their will and that was basically what the rep was doing.

    The reason why it’s different canceling than starting is that the customer wants to discontinue the business relationship when they are canceling. You can’t charge the customer for services they don’t want just because you don’t like their reason fior canceling. Going in, both parties are interested in having a relationship so there’s mutual interest.

  9. Jeff Parker says:

    You know though sometimes I wonder. I read an article today about a woman that was trying to get her mothers AOL service disconnected since she had died. They refused because they said she would have to have her mother call in and make the request.  She had the coroners number and death certificate and everything yet AOL still wouldn’t cancel her service. The cancelled the credit cards everything 2 months later they tried to sign on and the account was still there.

  10. Christien says:

    I have nothing further to offer except that one of them has recently gotten hold of my mobile.  Then, it spreads like a virus from company to company.  I’m not happy about it.  I’m quite meticulous about who gets it too and therefore curious to how they got it.

    In the past week, I’ve been offered a lower mortgage from someone who barely spoke English and some sort of prepaid cell phone plan with like 10,000 minutes.

  11. Christina says:

    This happened to me recently. However, they just ignored my "NO, I won’t read it" and went ahead and signed me up anyway. Now I have to call them and tell them that I said no, I don’t want your free paper and don’t charge me!  

    On the other hand, I’ve done telemarketing. Soul sucking at it’s worst.

  12. James Risto says:

    Reminds me of my experience with XBox Live. Nowhere near as bad, but sheesh if I can input my name, address, credit card and other data with my controller, why do I have to call to cancel my subscription? That would be a simple yes/no on the controller! Perhaps this has changed … this was a few years ago.

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Christina-kind of conflicting, huh? I feel the same.

    James-sounds like a feature request. I’m not a gamer so unfortunatley I don’t know if it has been added.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    >Arggggh, "free" is not the answer to everything! My question is this: are they teaching them not to listen, just hiring people that have poor listening skills or is there some kind of contest to keep the customer on the line for a certain period of time? I heard that if you say "no" to a sales call 3 times, they have to hang up. Not sure if that is true.<

    I’m not sure about that, but if you say, "Take me off your marketing list and don’t call again," they legally can’t, I believe under Federal law.  Really, it’s best to just cut them off– that way you don’t have to interact and take the crap 😉  I’ve done it with every telemarketing call that I get, and my husband and I barely get any bites anymore.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm, OK, "take me off your marketing list". I’m going to do that.

  16. jb says:

    that aol call remineds me of peoplepc.

  17. Tim says:

    Looks like it’s a great time to get rid of your AOL account, especially if you’d been afraid to because of the horror stories. I had the same experience with the LA Times you did with the Seattle Times. It’s really a shame companies put their employees in those positions. As much as they’d like to think of themselves as "people companies" their behavior really proves the opposite, don’t you think?

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’m not sure I know anyone that still has an AOL account, now that you mention it. I had an account in ’97.

  19. Jana says:

    I believe you have to state "take me off your call list" to have the phone calls stop.  Each time, take down the name of the person you are talking to and document time and date of conversation.  Then, after three calls after you say "take me off your list" you can take them to small claims court or something along those lines.  Not sure if that holds true today, but definitely something to keep in mind

  20. Kit says:

    I worked for AOL for about 4 months when I was in college.

    They are paid by retention or so calls saves.

    It is estimated that for each person saved is like $140 in revenue for them immediately and for that same person if the stayed on for another 30 days without calling back then it is about $2000.  

    Money is made on marketing end. People look at active subsriber #s and base cost for advertising on AOL.

    They pay pretty decent bonus if you do well. I would say if I continue that part time that I could have made 80K a year. Not too many do that but I can certainly tell you that I was not at all in any way like the described conversation. There are many ways to cancel your account . I think people do pick out the worst scenarios to write about otherwise it would not sound so interesting.

    I Refused to do those pitch though. I think it depends on the individuals. There are people who use these mindless methods but it definitely is not at all taught that you must ask a person that many times. Everyone is pretty much free to operate in their own style.

    They are pushed to perform but that is their style. These are usually individuals who are thick headed.

    Off the subject but my worst experience is once walikng through a store called Ultimate Electronics. We were looking for HDTV and teh store was probably 3000 sqft at that location. 9 people approached us sell. It was really ridiculous. They can all see that we have been approached and still did it. We walked out of the store and never been back in one of those. We did not even look at anything because of all the interruption. That was just pure harassment.

  21. nameless says:

    Ive worked at a call center, it sucks. We are required to get 3 no’s before we can end the call. Its not that we dont know how to listen, cant hear, or trying to be rude. Our calls are listened into by QC and we get write-ups for being polite and ending the call early. Just tell the telemarketer you want to be put on their "do not call list" and hang up. I dreaded going for the third "no" and would pray that the customer would just hang up, we would just end up getting screamed at, it was pointless. The people that enforce the 3rd no rule are never the ones that actually have to call people.