cartoon man hugging a giant red heart that says 'Miss you already'

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

We are being encouraged more and more to consider switching – our insurance policies, banks, mobile providers, our tea bags and the milk we make the tea with. The government is putting rules in place to make it easier and new companies are appearing every day to help us compare prices and choose a new provider.

For those providers we are leaving this means having to let the customer go in a dignified manner and in a way that ensures they might consider you when the next switch happens.

My recent switch

We have very recently, and somewhat reluctantly, switched broadband provider. My wife and I live in the countryside. We have been with EE for a number of years and have always struggled with bandwidth.  We are promised 10Mb/sec but rarely get close to 5. To be fair to EE we have tried a number of providers and always had the same issue. For you kids living in London or Manchester, imagine having to choose Netflix or Instagram, Amazon Prime or Youtube. Well, that’s us.  If we second screen we lose the first one.  We still occasionally see the buffering %!

However, joy is unbounded.  Fibre optic broadband has come to the neighbourhood. The downside; you can only buy it from BT. And we pretty much hate BT.  We have been a customer before and their customer service last time was awful, trying to communicate with them – ironically – is pretty impossible and something always goes wrong in the transfer.  When we moved into our house, they cut our neighbours phone line off, on Christmas Eve, in a household with 4 boys. We were not popular!

After some annoying phone calls and much soul-searching we decided to switch. And it has gone pretty well, the difference in what we can do is incredible (Facebook and download music at the same time!) and we have only had one minor problem – don’t try calling us at home at the moment is all I will say.

What not to do

However, this is not a tale about BT, this is about EE. Obviously they got notified about the change with a month’s notice more or less as we had to get the fibre optic cable brought to the house. So they had plenty of time to get in touch and see what they could do. They can’t currently offer the same option so we were always going to move. However, we would have gone back as soon as our contract is over and they can provide the same service.  And then this arrived:

 

It’s a nice enough letter, and a pretty good offer. Sadly, the end date to the offer was 4 days before the letter was sent. What happens in companies for this sort of thing to happen? And do they even think about the implications?  Instead of leaving EE with a wistful goodbye and a hope of re-uniting in the future I now think of them as a bit of a joke and wonder if they are inept.  Doing nothing would have been better than doing something in this case.

Rise of the challenger brands

From the most recent DMA research on switching we see a lot of customers moving from the traditional providers in supermarkets, banks and mobile providers. In fact, in general, the newer providers are net increasing while the more established brands are net decreasing.

People will always want to try the new kid on the block; the new brand or the new product. It doesn’t always work though, and when things go wrong, returning to the safety of a well-known brand who are reliable and can be trusted is the natural outcome. The big banks might be missing out to customers moving to Starling or Monzo but if something goes wrong, with the company or the service, they will be looking to move again and bigger sometimes does look better.

Sometimes bye is best

Of course, for some customers, it might be best to let them go. The serial switchers who are draining cost; the constant contactors who cost us in service fees; the buy two and return one types who are always marginal.  Understanding current and future value clearly helps us decide where to spend our retention budgets and also who to not worry too much about them leaving.

But for others, we really want them to come back.  However, making that decision may well depend on how well they have been treated when they moved. My mum always used to say “never burn bridges” and that is as true for brands as it is in life. A “sorry to see you go, we will be glad to welcome you back and here is an offer open for a couple of years” message might not seem the best thing when someone is leaving but separating on good terms is often as good for the brand as it is for the consumer.

 

Want to know more about how to effectively engage with your customers? Contact us today

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