The Customer Service Survey

Abusive Customer Experience

by Peter Leppik on Mon, 2015-04-27 17:04

When does customer service cross the line from bad to abusive?

Here's one example which I think is well across that line: British satellite TV provider Sky (not to be confused with Skynet) has a policy that customers can only cancel by phone. It's not possible to cancel through the company's website, by email, or even by registered letter or court summons.

Not that they made that phone cancelation easy. The whole point of forcing customers through this process is to make it hard--and ensure that customers have to talk to a "retention specialist" who can try to talk them out of it. Customer complaints and horror stories about the difficulty in canceling Sky service are easy to find.

That's abusive enough on it's own. But what really elevates Sky into its own special circle of consumer hell is that for some period of time (until coming under regulatory and media fire) until May 2014, Sky's own contract on its website explicitly said that its customers could cancel "by phone or by writing to us," even though written cancelation requests were ignored.

When this problem (a problem some would describe as "breach of contract" and "generally horrible abusive behavior") was publicized, the company solved the problem simply by updating its terms to clarify that customers could only cancel by phone.

And yet this codification of customer abuse was deemed a "victory" by The Telegraph, one of the newspapers which publicized the problems. 

I think we should all be wary of winning too many "victories" like this one.

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