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A glance at my credit card bill showed be that we were paying the Yes satellite TV company much more than we had agreed to. I dialed *2080 and a nice girl explained that the special terms we had received, had expired. Yes had tried to contact us via our TV, she said, but had failed, so it had to raise the price.

You know the rest of the story. I said it cost too much, she offered me a cheaper package but it was still more than I'd been paying in the past. I hung up.

Then I thought about matters and called back. This time I demanded to receive the same terms I'd had in the past. I was politely refused. I called *6900 and received an offer from the arch-rival, the HOT cable TV company. Then I called Yes, to disconnect service.

Hearing that, the Yes representative transferred my call to a service representative, who was also nice, but more to the point had special powers. Within three minutes I had my original price and could breathe easy at the thought that I wouldn't miss the next episodes of Desperate Housewives.

Now, everybody knows that the television companies spend a fortune on recruitment. Yes alone spends millions of dollars a year on ads, and everybody also knows that it costs less to preserve a client than to recruit a new one. So every manager is well aware of the importance of his customer service department.

In this case, Yes may have kept its customer, but it lost its image. The satellite TV company blew its effort to increase its income from me, and its image has suffered in my eyes. I am paying the same, but feel as though they'd tried to squeeze me for more.

Why does it have to be that way? Yes should have taken a brave decision: either what really matters is increasing income per user, so cheapskates might as well be shown the door and ushered back to the cable TV company. Or, it should decide that its top priority is to safeguard its company base, which means keeping people satisfied.

Kitschy kitschy hog

Imagine calling a company from which you buy TV service, and being told that your special pricing package has expired. (Or, go the whole kitschy hog and imagine that the company took the initiative and called you). The service representative nicely explains that because you've been such a good customer for so long, and have been faithful, not cheating with That Company, it is extending your subscription (if you want) at the same price you paid the year before.

Sounds dreamy, but it makes marketing sense. A company that does that will gain loyal customers and save itself the costs of churn. It will narrow the gap between its promises of service and its delivery.

But meanwhile we have to make do with companies that raise the price and gamble that the proportion of outraged customers that decide to forgo its service, will be small.

sivank@haaretz.co.il