Inkspots: Canceling satellite radio a test of stamina
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 20, 2014 | 441 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The most interesting thing about a postage stamp is the persistence with which it sticks to its job.”

— Napoleon Hill

American Author



Marketing is one thing and persistent marketing is quite another, but the other day I survived a bout of dogged marketing that left me scratching my head.

I mean, how many ways do you have to say “no” before the trained professional on the other end of the line finally gets your message?

I’ll refrain from dropping company names, but here’s a hint. It’s a popular satellite radio service that doubled in size a few years ago thanks to a corporate merger.

When these two entertainment giants married, they gave birth to a radio broadcasting mega-child whose business model is simple: LOSE NO CUSTOMER ... no matter what.

Maybe it’s my fault. I confused the marketer. I told him I “loved” his company’s product, but I couldn’t justify the expense of keeping it because I wasn’t in the car long enough at any one time to enjoy it.

That’s when he launched into search and recovery.

Let me start at the beginning.

Fourteen months ago my wife and I took the plunge and bought a new car. It came with a three-month free trial of that unnamed satellite radio service I mentioned earlier. At the end of the trial, I had the choice of keeping the service going and paying for another year’s worth; or, I could just let it expire.

My wife has satellite radio in her vehicle and she loves it, especially on long road trips. So, we agreed to keep it in the new car for a year as an experiment.

Anyone who has satellite radio knows this. They don’t give it away. It’s a quality product for those who appreciate diversity in their music and other broadcast news and entertainment. But it’s not cheap.

Anyone who has satellite radio also knows this. To best enjoy it, you have to use it. If you don’t use it, you’re throwing dollars out the window.

When I’m driving locally, I prefer listening to local radio. And most of my driving is local. I arrive for work in the early morning, the car pretty much sits in the parking lot all day and I drive home in the evening.

There’s a little drive time in the evenings and weekends, but not enough to reap the benefits of satellite radio.

Even my wife recognized I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. She recommended its cancellation. I agreed. But, to stop the service I had to contact a customer service number. Otherwise, it would be continued automatically.

Last week I made the call. I have only a guess as to the location of the corporate call center, but it sounded like the other side of the world. Judging by the marketer’s accent, I’d say it was well beyond the Atlantic and somewhere due east of Europe ... in a land far away where American corporations grow call centers like home gardeners grow tomatoes.

And yet, his name was “Paul.”

Make no mistake. Paul was a cordial fellow. A bit hard to understand, but then again he might have been saying the same to his supervisor of the country bumpkin from American Appalachia who had just given up his satellite radio.

I can’t quote our conversation precisely because I wasn’t recording it nor was I taking notes. But it went something like this. It is my hope Paul will forgive any inaccuracies.

“Mr. Norton, I certainly understand your decision to cancel our service, but we value all our customers so I would like to ask why you have come to this decision,” Paul said.

“I just wasn’t listening to it enough to justify the expense,” I explained in American Appalachian.

“So, you’re saying it was the cost of our service as the reason that you are cancelling?” he asked in Third World.

“No,” I corrected him. “Cost wasn’t really a factor. It’s a little expensive, but I just wasn’t listening to it enough.”

“How often would you say you listened to it?” Paul continued.

“Mostly on long trips,” I replied. “But not when I’m driving in town.”

“And how often would you say you take long trips?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe two or three times a year ... in that car,” I said.

“Yes, I see here you also have our service in another vehicle.”

“Yes, my wife’s,” I confirmed. “She loves satellite radio.”

“Does she use it only on long trips?” Paul wanted to know.

“No,” I replied. “She plays it all the time. Locally, road trips and all points in between.”

“All points ... in between?” Paul asked, his voice disguising the confusion that was probably registered on his face in his Asian cubicle.

“That means everywhere,” I clarified.

“So Mr. Norton, we value all our customers so we want to do all we can to keep you as a member of our family — ”

“And that’s awfully nice of you, Paul,” I interrupted. “But we need to do this.”

“— and in order to keep you as our valued customer, perhaps I could interest you in a discount. Would you be interested in continuing our service for another year at one-half the price you’re paying now?”

Paul stunned me. His marketing tease had given me cause for reconsideration. But I quickly regrouped. I couldn’t show weakness.

“No ... no, we just need to end it here and now.” I let out a sigh of relief in the wake of my courage.

Paul paused. Perhaps he was talking to a supervisor. Perhaps he was consulting his training manual.

“Mr. Norton, yes, I understand. But perhaps I could interest you in a shorter term opportunity? What would you say if I offered you five months of our service for $25? That’s five dollars per month, excluding fees.”

More temptation. But the word “fees” broke my spell.

“That’s very kind of you, Paul,” I assured. “And please thank your company for the nice offer. But, my mind’s made up.”

Another pause.

Perhaps Paul was consulting his supervisor again. I imagined the words “... he’s not budging” being whispered somewhere in Asia by a faceless marketer to a frowning boss. But I’m not sure there’s an Asian translation for “budge.”

Paul returned.

“Very well, Mr. Norton,” he declared. “I completely understand. Perhaps you will reconsider at some time in your future.”

“Perhaps, Paul ... perhaps.”

Paul excused himself for another few seconds and returned with my confirmation number verifying the cancellation.

“And is there anything else I can do for you today, Mr. Norton?” Paul asked.

“No Paul, not today. We’re good.”

“Then I wish for you a very pleasant day, and if you require additional assistance, please do not hesitate to call. My name is Paul.”

“Thanks, Paul. I’m Rick. ‘Bye.”

Lesson learned? Yes, and it’s a big one. When my wife tires of paying full price for her satellite radio ... just threaten to cancel.

And ask for Paul.