I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I can’t say I was either shocked nor surprised how hard it was. Even though logic and reason would make you think it would be easy. Where shall I begin this tale? Let’s go back to May 2011, very briefly. I emerged from the Three shop in Bournemouth with a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S2. On a two year contract, with Three. Two years, in theory. But not if Three could help it. Let’s fast forward two years. My contract ends, so I call them. I don’t want to renew, and I can sense their fear. But I just want to switch to a cheaper rolling month by month contract. I don’t need to be paying for the phone itself anymore. They breathe a sigh of relief.
But the Samsung Galaxy S2 was a dated phone, and I was waiting for something better to come along. It came – the HTC One. I bought a brand new contract rather than upgrade the old. For a good reason, but one that is unimportant to the story. So I called up to cancel the S2. Alas, their cancellation lines are only open from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. So I waited till I had time during the week. I had to wait three weeks.
I finally got through last week. I explained the situation. I have a new phone. And I have bought it with Three, so fear not I haven’t left you! Just need to cancel the old contract please. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, came the reply. Followed by, ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. Followed by scripted bilge. I asked him if more than 50% of Three customers have two contracts and two phones with Three? He wasn’t sure. I reminded him that he’d just told me that, in effect, ‘most’ customers do. Which is nonsense.
Seriously, I have a new phone with Three. I do not need two. No one else in the house wants this contract, they all have there own. Just cancel it. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, <pause as a page is turned> ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. No, really, just cancel it. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, <pause as a page is turned> ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. This continued for, and I kid ye not, for nearly 30 minutes. Before he finally yielded, with great reluctance, and transferred me to the cancellation department. Jesus H Christ, I hadn’t even been speaking to someone who could actually cancel the bleeding contract! And he had just spent half an hour promising that ‘he could definitely help me with that’. When, in fact, that was the one thing that he couldn’t do at all!
The policy was eventually cancelled, after further hanging on hold until someone who could cancel a policy picked up the call. But not before a few more efforts at retention were made. What was the net result of that call? Mrs P’s contract is up. We are shortly going to get her a new phone. It was going to be on Three. Now it will not be with Three. Too difficult to cancel when the time comes. Their efforts to save a customer cost a customer. Cancellation karma indeed.
The telephone sales industry really does need to be looked at by regulators. I know this from experience. Not this experience. From working in the telephone sales industry, Service is shoddy. Miss-selling is closer to being the norm rather than the exception. Sales scripts are closer to harassment and bullying than they are banter. Most firms should probably have their outbound dialing departments shut down. Many should probably have their Inbound departments closed two. And new regulations should definitely be implemented. I have my own list of regulations that I would like to see.
- If a call centre is open and available to sell a policy or provide a quote, it should also be able to amend or cancel a policy. Opening hours for both sales and cancellations should be the same.
- If an 0800 (free) number is available for sales, then ALL numbers provided to customers for other purposes should be free.
- If you can buy a contract or policy online, then the company must also make it possible to cancel online.
- If a customer asks to cancel a policy, they must be put through to an agent who can cancel the policy immediately. Any attempt to retain should be a breach of regulations.
- Retention agents handling cancellations should be permitted to ask why the customer wishes to cancel. Once. They can offer to transfer the customer to a sales agent if they would like to explore better offers. Once. Otherwise, the policy or contract should be cancelled immediately.
- Any company failing to cancel a policy within five minutes of answering the call should be fined. Heavily. There’s no reason it should take any longer.
- Agents should not be allowed to sell a quote from an outbound ‘cold call’. The customer must ring back.
- I could go on. But you’re bored already.