Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Why do you only love me after I'm gone?

I know this is a simple fact of life, but I still find it fascinating. Why is it always easier to value something when you don't have it than when you do?

You might imagine I'm about to provide some thought provoking and heartfelt sentiments about a family member or other relationship, but I'm actually referring to companies. You certainly see this with husbands and wives, though, where the threat of a divorce or someone moving out is a wake-up call, a sudden catalyst to work hard to protect and renew what you have. A medical report or a phone call from a distant state can have a similar effect.

For today, though, let's keep it much simpler and just focus on the world of business. At the Bailey home, we recently switched from Time-Warner Cable and TiVO to Verizon FiOS TV. The switch was very easy and we've been happy with the change, though nothing will ever compare to the utter ease and friendliness of TiVO.

What's funny is the response of the company we left. Verizon has been blanketing every home in our area at least once a week with ads and offers. They are relentless. And every day as you drive through our neighborhood, you see another Verizon van getting ready to do an install.

As we've watched this happen, I've wondered why Time-Warner would just sit back and watch someone steal all of their business. I've had absolutely no communication from Time-Warner in the last year other than the monthly bill. No service improvements, no special offers or discounts, no rewards for loyalty or a simple thank you. There was not a single reason to stay.

But then I called to cancel. At the point of the phone call, I was already watching one of my fresh, new channels on my new service, but this is when they decide to put effort into customer retention. I was offered a monthly rate $15 lower than I've been paying if I commit to staying for one year. Not only is this irrelevant at this point, but it's a little unsettling to see them so eager to save me money now, when they haven't been remotely interested in saving me money for the past two years.

Even more interesting is the fact that I've received 3 more phone calls from them since then! And the whole time I'm thinking, "Why are you investing all of this time and money in a customer who is gone instead of the many more who are about to make the same decision?"

The point isn't Time-Warner, of course, and I hope this doesn't read like a typical customer service rant. The part I'm interested in is what this example means in the larger picture. Every organization has to decide how to balance three things: the pursuit of new people, the retention of current ones, and getting back those who have left. It seems to me that the best companies focus on the first two, with the result that fewer people leave and those who who do leave for the right reasons.

Finally, TiVO does a great job of making you glad you're a customer. There is a sense of belonging in their marketing and they regularly roll out new features, benefits, and specials to keep you in the fold. Even so, that isn't always enough.

If you're a current TiVO subscriber, though, it might be worth a phone call. When I told them I was leaving, they asked if I'd like to keep the TiVO on an extra TV - if so, they'd be happy cut the monthly fee in half!