Shrines to Frustration

By | July 7, 2006

It’s depressing that two gripes I’ve posted, both at least a year old, continue to get comments which push both posts to the top of the search engines. My grumbles about accessing Xdrive, an online storage service bought by AOL, comes out top if you search for xdrive problems on Google. Search for cancel napster and my post about how hard it was to cancel the service comes as the next result below a couple of official Napster sites. Both posts got more comments in the last few hours.

I’m not particularly proud about this; I’ve already written a column about Napster’s poor cancellation process, and bad press doesn’t seem to bother either company. (Although maybe AOL might start changing its practice after Randall Stross’ piece in the NYT about how customer service reps are instructed to try more or less every trick before complying with customer requests to cancel their account.

Wearing my hat, I’ve talked to both AOL and Napster about these problems and it seems in both cases neither problem has been fixed. If they had, why would people keep posting horror stories? Somehow I doubt these two cases are exceptional. I imagine there must be hundreds of companies out there where single blog posts have become shrines to customer frustration. Fortunately in both cases readers have added useful advice in the comments so it’s not all just blowing off steam. But why aren’t big companies more proactive about these things by monitoring search results and reaching out to websites or blogs that attract this kind of traffic?

2 thoughts on “Shrines to Frustration

  1. Chris Morrow

    So, as to the aversion to cancel, and attempt at trickery… If, in the case of AOL, there is a turnover rate of 5% monthly. Their current subscriber base is about 30million users (give or take, it’s a huge number either way, right?) if some percentage of 5% (1,500,000 users monthly) were ‘tricked’ into staying, or realized they were cancelling for the ‘wrong reason’, they’d avoid a loss. Say the percentage that stays is 5% of the 5% that leaves, that’s: 75,000 users, at 20$/month that adds up to about: $1,500,000/month.

    That looks good on any exec’s spreadsheet. The group inside any corporation that is respobsible for cancelling accounts for customers is metriced on how well they prevent cancels…

    So, why would anyone, least of all AOL, let you cancel ‘quickly’ and ‘easily’?

    All that aside, why the focus on ‘AOL’ and napster? Why not also mention every credit card company out there? None lets you cancel quickly, none does it simply and none lets you avoid an hour-long conversation (sometimes on a toll call even) for cancelling their ‘service’. I get that AOL got some press recently from Mr Ferrarri’s taped conversation, but honestly it sounded like a normal cancel call to me, nothing shocking. (to me atleast)

  2. James

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