What Has Happened to the Concept of Customer Retention?

17/01/2012 09:17 GMT | Updated 16/03/2012 09:12 GMT

In this temperamental economic climate, is it so improbable to think that companies would want to keep their customers?

I had a completely different blog in mind, but was jolted into this path my plethora of gadgets chucked me onto the broadband-limit naughty step!

As always, the day before heading off for Christmas, I left it to the last minute to tackle all those irritating updates. Online gaming updates, Apple devices, even the Playstation demanded some broadband update action. Cue my slap on the wrist for creeping over my meagre 10GB limit but I was more horrified to see just how much I was paying for...well not very much, really.

I decided to switch my broadband and telephone supplier after years of staying with the old one. A little research with my mobile phone provider showed that even their most basic package was considerably cheaper, and with twice the broadband allowance. Dusting off my best negotiation tactics, I called up my current provider to ask when my contract was ending, expecting they would at least pass me to their retention department.

Let's be fair here, the incumbent representative was very polite and did ask why I was moving and when I equally politely laid out the facts, she was very matter of fact about the process to move. But there was no offer to match the alternative provider's package. Nothing.

Just a matter of fact run-down of what the steps would be and that I would be paying a contract termination fee of just £3!

I got migration code in five minutes - not the mandatory five days, not even having to threaten to report them to OFCOM (not that I wanted to resort to that, of course!) Compare and contrast a call I had to make to my favourite and often used online DVD/Blu-Ray retailer.

I thought I would take advantage of their new additional postage options, but was annoyed that my next day delivery was nowhere to be seen. To add insult to injury, I was told by the helpdesk that I was in the rare 1% where deliveries go awry. That's comforting, how?

So I followed up my complaint in writing, and was pleasantly surprised to receive an email apologising for the issues with delivery, thanking me for offering feedback, and a goodwill gesture of a £15 discount. That's how you make a customer feel wanted.

Even going back a few years, when trying to get various things fixed in the house when I first moved in, some companies seemed reluctant to provide quotes or follow up. Given that I bought my house just at the start of the global financial collapse, this approach of "I can't be bothered" baffled me.

I supposed it shouldn't though - after all one person's apathy is another's revenue. Indeed I'd hate to think about how much my own apathy has cost me over the years. Or perhaps to look at it more positively, see what my current provider's meek capitulation to a consumer's market will save me in the next few weeks.