Please Sir, Can I Have No More?

Don\'t Lock In Your CUstomers

Locking in your customers doesn’t work. People use what they want to use. If they’re not happy with your service they’re going to leave whether you want them to or not. So opening up your service and giving your customers the choice helps your company look honest and encourages people to trust you.

Earlier today I had a run in with a company that clearly doesn’t get this concept.

Last week I needed to send a fax in a hurry. I didn’t have a fax machine in the office and the faxing service that’s offered in the main building hadn’t opened yet. I was running out of options. So I decided to look online for a faxing service that could send the fax for me. After a short search I found eFax which were offering a 30 day free trial. This sounded perfect because I only needed to send this one fax, after which I could close the account and avoid being charged.

A Decent Online Fax Service

First impressions were good. The sign up process was easy and once logged in, finding my way around the system was fairly intuitive. The eFax system works by assigning your account with a unique local phone number which you can use to send and receive electronic faxes as if they were normal paper faxes. It’s not a new idea, or a new company, but I hadn’t used anything like it before and was pretty impressed by it all. (Actually, any service that helps to break down the barriers between the offline and online worlds usually impresses me.)

Anyway, I sent my fax and I was happy. Crisis averted.

All I had to do now was cancel my eFax account. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as I had expected. In fact it was downright difficult. Here’s what happened:

There Was No Cancel Button

As part of the sign up I had to hand over my credit card details. eFax charge a minimum monthly fee of about €7 but with the free trial you get the first 30 days for free. I was keen to cancel my account before this subscription fee kicked in but was disappointed to find that you couldn’t cancel from within the service. There was no cancellation button to be found anywhere.

Online Help – Was Not So Helpful

I decided to try their FAQ section to see if there was any tips on removing or cancelling an account there. But just like in their logged in service, there was no mention of it.

Live Chat Was Like Talking To A Robot

Having given up on the FAQ section I decided to use their live chat facility to manually request that they remove my account. After a short wait, I was through to one of the operators. I quickly explained that I wanted to cancel my account but received a stream of unhelpful, pre-written replies that could just as easily have been delivered by a robot.

Eventually I discovered that I was using the wrong live chat service (sales only) and that eFax had a special dedicated chat line for people who want to cancel their account. It’s also hidden and unadvertised. So here’s the link:

Clearly, they don’t advertise this link on their site to make it even more difficult to cancel an account.

Queue Position 8  – Not Good Enough

Once I managed to get the second live chat up and running (it doesn’t work in Firefox) I was greeted by the message that I was number eight in the queue and that I would have to wait approximately 20 minutes before someone could chat to me about cancelling my account.

The frustration was starting to get the better of me.

After 16 minutes of waiting and a fresh cup of tea I got talking to a support monkey who was eventually able to cancel my account. But that wasn’t before he tried to convince me to stay on until the end of the 30 day trial or before he asked me to fill out a questionnaire on why I wanted to cancel my account.

Lesson of the Day: Trust and Openness Matters Online

I left the chat with a sour taste in my mouth and a severe dislike for the underhanded way in which eFax have designed their ‘free trial’ service.

Let’s not forget, I was happy with the service up until the point where I decided to close my account. Yes, I was cancelling it but there was every chance that I might reopen it in the future and also recommend it to others. But now, after the way that eFax tried to lock me into their service I will never use them again and I won’t be referring them to anyone.


4 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Fintan Murphy says:

    We were considering an online fax solutions and eFax was a front runner. I shall be re-considering my options.
    Thanks for the heads up Iarfhlaith

    Jul 16, 2008
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    It’s actually a pretty good service, but preventing you customers from leaving is enough to send alarm bells going off in your head and is a warning of things to come in terms of customer service and openness.

    Jul 24, 2008
  3. Fintan Murphy says:

    I take your point Iarfhlaith and I agree it is a good service. Especially for techies like us who know the days of the fax machine are numbered! However I believe in openess, both in my own business and those I deal with.

    Anyone trying to “lock” Fintan Murphy into anything shall be met with the deadliest of force…

    Jul 24, 2008

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