If you leave me now…

A man named Vincent Ferrari is making headlines today. He called AOL’s costumer service to cancel his account and ran into a less than cooperative representative. The twist is, Vincent was taping the call and posted the recording on his blog.

This article from MSNBC.com quotes AOL’s response to the story. As expected the representative is blamed for “[violating] customer service guidelines and practices” and he is “no longer with the Company”. Puh-lease!

Given that AOL is literally hemorrhaging customers these days, is it hard to believe that the company would have an aggressive customer retention policy? Since Vincent posted his story a lot of people have come forward to relate similar experiences. Are we to believe that they all ran into a few bad apples?

My wife used to be a long time AOL customer. Back 4 or 5 years ago, when we decided to cancel her account, the customer service reps also tried very hard to retain our business. I’ve heard similar stories from friends or coworkers dating back years. If AOL was aggressively trying to hold on to customers back when it was doing pretty well, is it hard to believe it would be even more aggressive today?

As always the little guy takes the blame though. I’m not saying the rep didn’t violate some policy or guideline, but his behavior didn’t come out of the blue. Aggressive policies from management breed aggressive behavior. You see it all the time (look no further than your local car dealerships). Maybe AOL needs to come to terms with the fact that dial-up is a dying business. I don’t believe it will disappear overnight, but it is a market which is bound to get a lot smaller than it currently is. AOL should be hard at work looking for replacement income streams rather than pressuring departing customers to stay with them for a little while longer.