I'm sure you know where this is going. I eventually tracked down an email address and fired off a suitably curt note, explaining I don't take too kindly to companies trying to trick me out of my money. It's what happened next that surprised me ...
Literally 5 minutes later, I received a personalised response from a member of the company's customer service team called Meg. She said ...
"Thanks for getting in touch today! We didn't mean to surprise you with this charge, but all of our paid plans are enabled with an auto-renew feature by default in order to prevent any unintended interruptions of service. This explains why your account renewed automatically and generated this charge. I'm so sorry for any alarm this may have caused."
That took me by surprise. Firstly the speed of the response itself, which showed they had a proper process and took my complaint seriously. Then a genuine apology, not trying to apportion blame, but simply taking ownership of the problem and explaining why it occurred.
The surprises didn't stop there however...
"That said, we definitely don't want to charge you for a service you're not using. Of course I'd be happy to process a refund for you! We'll be sorry to see you go, but as requested I've refunded the most recent charge on your account and canceled your GOLD plan. Your account is now on our free BASIC plan, and hopefully we'll have the chance to work with you again in the future!"
Now that's some pretty impressive customer service I'm sure you'll agree. Why am I sharing this little anecdote with you, you might reasonably ask?
I'll tell you why. On a daily basis my company Trinity advises sales organisations on ways to better understand why they are winning and losing the deals they pursue. I'm fascinated by the way in which customers make their decisions and how little of their decision making process relates to product or price. We'd like to think most purchasing decisions are reached on a purely rational and non-emotive basis, but that's simply not the case.
Human beings are incredibly sensitive to nuance and non-verbal cues. Our decision-making faculties absorb vast amounts of data to help us arrive at a decision. We don't just select one product or service over another. We select the personality and integrity of the salesperson, we select the perceived cultural fit of the organisation with our own. Both consciously and subconsciously, we weigh a vast array of factors and eventually arrive at a decision based on the balance of all variables.
As Jerry Gregoire, former CIO at Dell explained:
The customer experience is the next competitive battleground
No longer is it sufficient to simply have a great product or service. You need to understand the way your customer wants to experience and interact with you and ensure you make their experience as enjoyable and memorable as possible.
Steve Jobs understood this lesson better than most. He always placed the customer experience at the forefront of his mind. Perhaps this stemmed from his fascination with the intersection of the liberal arts and technology or his obsession with design simplicity, where form and function are inextricably linked. He was quoted as saying ...
We love our users. We try very hard to surprise and delight them
So perhaps that's the reason I decided to share this experience with you. I was both surprised and delighted by the customer experience I received this morning and it reminded me how important these small but significant factors can be in ensuring customer service is not just a slogan, but a way of doing business.