The User Experience of Relationships

  •   Doug Logan

By Doug Logan

No, this isn’t an article about dating. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much help there.

This article is about the relationships you have with your customers. More than anything, the key to keeping your customers (or clients) happy is by creating a meaningful relationship with them through a variety of good experiences.

Recently, I was issued a new credit card and so began the exciting process of updating all my subscriptions and accounts connected to my card. This experience, while annoying, is typically graceful as most sites will recognize there has been a payment decline and allow you a week or so to update your account information. Unfortunately, I did not experience the same level of care from each site.

Over the past three years, I have been a subscriber and daily listener of Rdio. I’m talking about 6+ hours of streaming each day. Whether you find that obsessive is not of my concern. As a creative person, I thrive on music.

When my measly $9.99 payment was declined, I got an email from Rdio reminding me to update my information. Since I did not immediately take care of it, within an hour my peaceful listening experience was interrupted by a Home Depot ad. Having just remodeled my house, the last thing I was wanted to hear was a man trying to sell me discounted paint.

After hearing the second ad, I could not listen to music the rest of the day. My groove had been disrupted, and I decided rather than updating my credit card, I thought I would check out some of Rdio’s competitors.

Upon signing up for a trial of both iTunes Radio and Spotify, I found that I enjoyed some of the features Spotify had in their mobile app that Rdio did not offer. The abrupt ads irked me so much that I felt it necessary to sacrifice all of my curated playlists by switching to a competitor service. That’s a big step. Anyone who spends a decent amount of time crafting mixtape quality playlists knows the effort and attachment you develop to them.

The cold reality was that the first time my card declined after three faithful years, I got kicked to ads with absolutely no grace period. Had I signed up for a trial that was declined after 30 days, things would have been different. To me, this was the equivalent of getting dumped via text message after a long-term relationship. (Did I mention how much I love music?)

To make matters worse, they showed no attempt at retaining me as a customer. No emails. No notifications. No nothing. In all likelihood, had they given me a week to update my credit card information, they would have had me for another year or more.

As someone who works in the digital space, I was shocked that a tech-based company didn’t handle this situation with care. When Netflix flagged my card, I received several non-aggressive reminder emails over the course of a week. I did not get hassled on mobile but was instead prompted to update my account when I sat down in front of my Xbox. Whether that approach was intentional or not, I’m not sure, but let’s just say I didn’t go looking for other video streaming services.

Even my church, whose process is very manual minus checking in via a mobile app, does a better job of inviting me back by sending me a letter in the mail. There is no reason a digital company shouldn’t have systems in place to keep up with retention. Although the marketing budget for acquisition typically trumps retention, there are a multitude of tools out there—many of them fully automated—to help keep the customer satisfied.

Think about the level of service you come to expect at a high-end hotel or a local shop that’s earned your trust. I frequent Folklore, a beatnik-esque coffee shop down the street from our office, and have every reason to believe they would have my back if I forgot my wallet. In fact, they have!—because they care about nurturing and retaining their loyal customers. The same experience is not necessarily practiced online.

Yet, as far as successful nurturing goes, AT&T seems to have it down. When I got a text saying they were adding a free 5GB of data to our share plan each month I thought it was kind of random until I realized my recent behavior.

A few weeks prior I checked the status of our account and found we had been eligible for an upgrade. Usually, we rush to the Apple store (or rather, the Apple website) to buy the latest iPhone as soon as it’s released. This time however, we did not.

Quite honestly, I had been considering switching to Verizon because I have heard they have better coverage in New York City—adequate 4G connection is a must when I’m communicating with clients in a pool of millions of mobile users. While AT&T cannot track my interest in their competitors, they can see that I looked at my account and did not upgrade. That red flag coupled with the fact that I had not yet bought the new iPhone was more than enough evidence for them to offer additional services in an effort to retain me.

Based on my behavior, it appears they may have used analytics to conclude I could be considering other carriers. It’s highly likely a company such as AT&T has a team or systems in place to track customer behavior. While they can obviously afford to lose a few customers here and there, our loyalty means something to them and their data.

I have to give them credit on this one. After looking at other carriers and many months of paying overage fees, it was a nice surprise. Really though, who is going to complain about an extra 5 gigs each month?


Header photo by Jake Liefer