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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

By now, you’d think that companies would be smart enough to know that you shouldn’t give new customers a better deal than old customers, since it is pretty much accepted fact that it is cheaper and easier to retain a shopper than it is to attract a new one.

But no...some companies keep on doing the same old dumb stuff. The question you need to ask yourself I work for one of those companies? And am I falling into old mistakes that I ought to know better than commit?

I ran into just such a company the other day when I got my cable bill, and it was $30 higher than the previous month. Now, I pay more than $200 a month to my cable company, because I also have Internet and phone as part of my service. But I hadn’t done anything during the previous month to cause an increase, so I called the cable company.

The guy I spoke to said that my promotion had run out - apparently the promotion that I got when I added phone and internet to the package. Okay, I said. How do I get a new promotion?

You can’t, he said. Promotions are only for new customers.

I launched into my “it is cheaper and easier to retain a shopper than it is to attract a new one” speech, but he wasn’t backing down. However, he also could tell that I wasn’t backing down, so he said he would switch me to the Retention Department.

Which he did. Except that the woman there answered, ”Disconnection Department.”

I started to laugh, and when she asked me why, I told her that I had been told that I’d be speaking to the Retention Department. She said that they are the same thing, and I said, “Trust me on this. Retention Department sounds better.”

The discussion about my rates started all over again, with me asking for the same treatment as a new customer and her saying that I was only allowed to be a new customer once.

So I decided to get tougher. I told her that if this were the case, I was perfectly happy to be a first time customer elsewhere, with Fios or Direct TV or one of the other many options available to me. And that I would be happy to move from service to service, always being a new customer, always getting the cheapest price. Because that was what she was encouraging me to do.

“No, I’m not,” she said.

“Yes, you are,” I said. “I’ve been a Cablevision customer for 26 years, and you are telling me that you want to give a better deal to someone who has never done business with you before. That’s essentially telling me to go elsewhere.”

This, apparently, got her to think differently about the problem...and while it took her about 10 minutes, she finally came back with a better deal. Instead of my monthly bill going up $30, it instead was going to go down $10.


Now, the woman did caution me that this was only a 12-month promotion. To which I replied, “So guess what conversation you and I are going to have next February?”

To her credit, she laughed. And said, “I can’t wait.”

She may even have meant it.

We’ve all been through this kind of nonsense, but it is worth pointing out that people and companies still make the same dumb mistakes, probably because they’ve been doing so for so long that it has become a habit. A bad habit.

Look at your business model. And think about this carefully. How are you nurturing existing customers? How are you telling them, every day if necessary, that they are the most important component of your business? And how are you letting them know that there is absolutely no reason to try the competition?

Because if you are not doing this, you may be essentially telling them to get lost.

Which isn’t a smart thing to do.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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