By Heather Mullinix
We've all had those relationships that just didn't work out. It wasn't you. It wasn't me. It just wasn't working. So the pair parts ways and moves on with their lives.
Only one doesn't.
They call incessantly. They send letters begging you to come back and give them another shot. They invade your cyberspace, sending email after email about how they've changed and they'll do better this time, if only the two of you could work it out.
I am, of course, talking about television service providers, but I suppose the same could be said of just about any consumer product, from credit cards to cell phones to gym memberships and beyond.
About a year ago, I broke up with my provider after growing wearing of wading through 250 channels and nothing being on and seeing the monthly bill creep a little higher every month.
I admit, I looked around before the break-up. I wanted to see what else might be on the market. I researched possibilities and found something that would meet my entertainment needs as well as my budget constraints. But the hard part remained.
I had to dump my television provider.
Before, this had always been easy. "It's not you," I'd tell the nice person on the phone. "I'm moving, so this relationship really won't work any longer."
Not this time. This time I was going to be brutally honest. I wasn't moving. I was staying right where I was. They were the one that was going to be hitting the road, taking the bulky cable box when they went.
"Hello, I'd like to cancel my service," I said when the customer service person came on the line.
Then they start offering all kinds of incentives to get you to stay. They'll give you a reduced rate for a few months, or how about free movie channels for a few months? I've never repeated myself so many times. But you have to remain firm in your resolve. They can sense wavering.
After about five minutes, the representative realized I wasn't budging, so I was transferred to the customer retention folks. These guys are good at what they do. They're smooth. They'll offer you the sun and the moon and the stars, if only you'll keep your service.
Stay strong. Keep saying, "I'm sorry, but I've made my decision. I want to cancel my service."
For me, it actually gets easier at this point. After being a loyal customer for several years, I was being taken for granted. And the special rates and incentives being offered just made me see that they only valued my business once it wasn't a sure thing. My opinion has always been the customer you have is more important than the customer you might have, and care should be taken to continue to make those customers feel valued and respected.
Finally, after about 20 minutes, it was all said and done. An end date for service was established and I was directed how to go about returning the equipment in my possession, since it was leased, not purchased.
I breathed a big sigh of relief. The stress was finally over.
Then, two days later, the calls began. I was called every day for about two weeks. I would repeat myself, confirm I did not wish to reconsider and then politely say good-bye and hang up.
Towards the end, my manners started to slip. I hate to take it out on the person whose job it is to call customers and offer even greater incentives and basically bug the customer to death until it almost seems like a good idea to go back, if only to make the incessant calls stop. But I would not be moved.
"Please remove me from your calling list," I finally told the gal on the phone after the umpteenth call. "I do not wish to be contacted further regarding service with this company."
She agreed, but added I might get one or two more calls until the system updated that I was a "do not call" number.
Things settled down for a little while. Then the letters came. And the emails. I probably get two emails a week even now, a year later. The subject lines usually offer a new promotion, or talk about how important I am to the company. They say things like, "Let's get back together," and "We won't rest until you're satisfied."
I joked the other day that this company was stalking me. But I remain firm in my resolve, and I have this advice to offer this company and others out there — don't wait until a customer is ready to dump you before you try making them happy. Keep them happy and you won't have to bother with all the drama after they walk away.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesday's. She may be reached at email@example.com.