Friday, March 22, 2013

What Would It Take To Have YOUR Business Today?

High speed Internet and TV with DVR are high tech products that are very much in demand in modern households. So why do some providers choose to sell them using cheesy sales techniques from a bygone era? Yes, I'm talking about you Charter and AT&T Uverse.

We've switched back and forth between Charter and U-Verse in recent years and it's all because of their ridiculous pricing and sales techniques. For years we were with Charter with their 12 month pricing model. I learned to mark my Google calendar 12 months out to remind me when it was time to call Charter and tell them I was cancelling unless they dropped my rate back to somewhere close to where it had been. It worked too, until it stopped working. A few years ago, my Charter rep dug in her heels and said I would have to pay the much higher rate. It was a 12 month deal and my 12 months were up. They did say something about a better price if I signed a long term contract but I wasn't about to sign a contract with a vendor I barely tolerated. Charter was finally calling my bluff. Only it wasn't a bluff. I cancelled.

The AT&T U-Verse door-to-door sales rep showed up at just the right time. His sales pitch was cheesy too but he seemed like a nice kid and I was happy to give him the sale. There was haggling and dealing and when it was done, I ended up paying about $130 per month for TV with DVR's for 5 TV's plus Internet. We passed on the home phone. No need to go back to the stone age. There was no contract.

Now that we were no longer Charter customers, they started carpet bombing us with direct mail offers that were lower than what I had been paying. Every time I got one I thought: If you'd just left me alone, or maybe raised the price 10%, I'd have stayed, but no, you had to raise the rates by some ridiculous amount closer to 50%! Then after I cancelled, you offer me even lower rates to get me back. It's crazy! I wondered who was in charge of their marketing and pricing schemes.

Things settled down for a year or so but my U-Verse bill started creeping up until at around $170, it had my attention and I called to negotiate. I'd learned that there are customer retention specialists who are authorized to offer better deals than the other reps so I got and called the customer retention number. I was offered a slightly better price, but not enough to satisfy me. I was assured that was their rock bottom deal. I cancelled. I called Charter, negotiated my next new deal and arranged for installation. Sure enough, U-Verse called. Not just the regular customer retention specialist, but someone a level above that who was offering me a deal that, had it been offered before, I would have accepted. But by now I'd spent a lot of time talking and negotiating with Charter and arranging for installation. I was not a happy customer. Unlike the other specialists, she left me her name and extension number to call back after I'd had a chance to think it over. I thought it over, and bolted U-Verse in favor of Charter again.

Same result. I started getting direct mail offers from U-Verse at lower rates but I kept ignoring them thinking there is a limit to the number of times I can tolerate switching. Then I noticed that these deals were multi-year contracts. They were following Charter down the contract path that, to the best of my knowledge, Charter itself soon abandoned!

Today, two fresh-faced young sales reps rang my door bell. Would I like to switch to AT&T U-Verse? They were not even armed with the information that we are a former customer. No, I explained, I didn't have time to play hide the discount with them today. I work from my home office and I have work to do, thank you.

The more experienced of the two continued to engage me in conversation in an attempt to get me to change my mind. I played along a few minutes longer. I could, he offered helpfully, get U-Verse for four of my TV's with DVR and with Internet for $104 per month... with a two year contract. No thanks, I said. And to myself I muttered, I don't do business with crazy people.

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