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scerruti
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 1:46 pm    Post subject: Tom Keating Cancels Vonage Service Reply with quote Back to top

Tom Keating's blog has gotten a lot of attention for an article he posted, with audio, about canceling his Vonage service.

Canceling Vonage Difficulties

In my opinion Tom comes off as a pompous jerk in this article. He fails to justify the title of the article by showing how canceling Vonage is any more difficult than canceling any other subscription service.

I would be glad if I was canceling a product and the company I had service with pointed out a valid flaw in my logic to transfer service to another vendor. They can't do that unless they understand why you are leaving, nor can they use that information to improve their product.

As far as traditional companies offering forwarding service, this is not true of all mobile carriers. I recently changed numbers with a mobile carrier (i.e. stayed with the same carrier) and could not get temporary forwarding or even a message with my new number when my old number was dialed.

For traditional carriers it was a no-brainer to offer this service. It was an extra charge, since they were a monopoly and since numbers were geographically fixed there was no point in attempting to keep customers from disconnecting lines with new numbers. That they haven't changed their behavior is more a reflection on their poor business practices than Vonage's customer service. Traditional companies aren't providing forwarding services because they are such nice guys.

I think that the article in general is good. Giving people insight into whats and whys of the cancellation process is good. I just disagree with how he titled the article. Difficult is a word that implies a great amount of trouble or inconvenience, I just don't think that this call rises to that point, especially since he was instrumental in prolonging it.

One other point of contention; he writes "By now I'm struggling to contain my laughter" regarding her response to his claim of technical competence. This sentence is clearly at odds with his later statements that he added these remarks for entertainment purposes. If he made a time neutral remark, like the one about being hurt, I could except the statement, but this was clearly a description of his reaction during the call and provides the reader insight about how he views himself as superior to both the CSR and the elite team. This is clearly supported by his use of quotes and emphasis when referring to the elite technical support team.

I think people who are considering cancelling service should be heartened by just how painless the process was for Tom. I think people who have a stake in the success of the company should be heartened by how well the CSR handled the call. I guess Tom is either just one of those half glass empty kind of guys or he is desperate enough for hits that he turned to sensationalism and Vonage bashing for exposure.

This blog entry was also referenced in the thread Do I stay or do I go?.

Why is this article worth discussion?
  • A false depiction of cancellation difficulties can hurt the consumer by leading them to a decision not to cancel and can hurt the company by preventing potential customers from signing up. It helps no one. As shown by references on this site, the truth of the situation, though contained in the article, do not carry as much weight as the headline.
  • Assuming an attitude of superiority when dealing with a company is tempting for those of us with expertise in a field. However it is the same since of superiority that can get doctors into trouble when they don't listen to nurses or engineers into trouble when they don't listen to technicians. It is important to treat other people with respect so that you can remain open to the possibility that they have special knowledge of a situation.
  • Vonage bashing has come into favor in the blogs. This is especially evident since the IPO. In many ways this is a reaction by bloggers to the fact that Vonage is a business and does not exist simply to push technology but rather to make a profit. It is also a side effect of Vonage having a strong brand, in the US we still root for the underdog. In some cases it is probably a reaction by bloggers to their own overly hyped praises of Vonage from two years ago. It is important for these bloggers to look at their work and ask themselves how the column will play in two years. They should also review their past work with the same question so that they can continue to improve.

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tkeating
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 4:03 pm    Post subject: Cancelling Vonage Reply with quote Back to top

>>in my opinion Tom comes off as a pompous jerk in this article. He fails to justify the title of the article by showing how canceling Vonage is any more difficult than canceling any other subscription service.

It was difficult in the sense that she gave me “attitude” when I pointed out that I could get voice & data for $50/month and she responded with a ton of attitude "Oh well, they offered you that for now, but how long is that package going to last???"

Let me reiterate what I posted in the comments section of my blog:

Let me be clear by saying she did do a good job. She DESERVES to be in the customer retention center for being tough and not giving up.

The one thing the transcript doesn't denote is "tone". She comes off as more polite in the transcript, when she actually had some "attitude".

If you listen to the beginning, her line where she says "Oh well, they offered you that for now, but how long is that package going to last???" It's pretty accusatory and with a lot of attitude. Her tone didn't sit well with me. She could have dropped the attitude and stuck with the facts. Was a total turn off.

She was being "difficult" in my opinion. I didn't need the 'sassy' attitude when I was being very polite to her. My guess if you only read the transcript which doesn't denote her tone of voice. Go listen for yourself and then judge.

>>As far as traditional companies offering forwarding service, this is not true of all mobile carriers.

I was referring to landline carriers offering forwarding number announcements. Regardless, shouldn't Vonage, on the leading edge of technology not offer MORE features than traditional landlines not less? Like I said in my post, they could have charged me for the forwarding service message and I would have paid it. Getting a few bucks from me is better than nothing at all.

>>he writes "By now I'm struggling to contain my laughter" regarding her response to his claim of technical competence. This sentence is clearly at odds with his later statements that he added these remarks for entertainment purposes.

Clearly my sarcasm and attempts at humor were lost on you. I am so hurt you didn't find me funny. Sad

(yeah, that was sarcasm too.)

>> if he made a time neutral remark, like the one about being hurt, I could accept the statement, but this was clearly a description of his reaction during the call and provides the reader insight about how he views himself as superior to both the CSR and the elite team.

Who cares how I view myself? I just thought it was funny she was trying to pass me onto their crack "elite team". Even if I knew nothing about Voip, her call script was waaaay over the top with marketing fluff. The way she was espousing their elite team, I half expected that if I decided to take them up on her off of tech support, that within 15 minutes a crack unit of Vonage special forces donning orange jumpsuits would be knocking on my door with packet sniffers in hand, RJ45 crimping tools, and oscilloscopes . Lol

>>Assuming an attitude of superiority when dealing with a company is tempting for those of us with expertise in a field

If you listen to the call, you will see I was extremely polite to her and not once did I assume an arrogant tone, or tell her that I write about Voip all day long. While my inline comments in the post contained some sarcasm and little bit of ego, that was purely for entertainment purposes for my blog readers.

>>Vonage bashing has come into favor in the blogs.

No argument here. But I don't think most bloggers enjoy bashing Vonage - they just see problems with their business model now that cable companies have ramped up their bundled offerings and other competitors. Vonage was the leader and way ahead of the curve, but others have caught up. It's just the nature of any business. If you are a leader in any industry, you will face criticism - case in point - Microsoft.

>> As shown by references on this site, the truth of the situation, though contained in the article, do not carry as much weight as the headline.

Headlines are only 1 piece of any article. You can't interpret what "Cancelling Vonage Difficulties" means simply from the headline. Maybe I was past due on my account and couldn't cancel until I paid up. Maybe my ISP was having an outage and I couldn't call to cancel. Or worse, maybe Vonage was having an outage which prevented me from cancelling. Or maybe I did indeed have difficulties cancelling.

Anyone that only scans headlines and makes assumptions is not a well-informed reader. The article I wrote contains the exact truth as it happened. Readers can read the transcript and listen to the call and judge whether or not it was easy to cancel or difficult. If they simple scanned the headline and didn't read the entire article, well, that's their fault, not mine.

I understand as a former Vonage user myself, that they have a 'cult' following. Heck, I was a Vonage user since 2002, if I recall. I still think Vonage has a good service, but they just couldn’t compete with a bundled offering I was able to find.

Also, if you ask me, "easy" cancelling would have been to allow me to cancel my service online. But requiring extra effort to call them escalates it to "medium". Giving me "attitude" and trying to hold the number portability issue over my head escalates it to "difficult".

I stand by what I wrote.

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Last edited by tkeating on Wed Sep 27, 2006 4:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

scerruti wrote:
I just disagree with how he titled the article


9+ paragraphs just because you disagree with the title of an article? Readers Digest version next time please.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I think.... that was a pointless exchange.

I'm always interested in hearing the ways someone will try to keep you on the service.. (I think I'll call and tell them it's just about $6/month too much for me to keep it..) but is it relavent if you think someone sounds a bit pompus? (blog on your blog about his blog then, at least I wouldnt' have sat here and read it for some inexplicable reason...)

I like Vonage thus far... but i image like any company who's IPO flopped, isn't making money and can't seem to sell itself to a major carrier... they're trying hard to retain customers.

I did have to laugh about some of Tom's referances to him being so well known... I've worked in the data infastructure industry several years and haven't heard of him until now... I wish his magazine would have hired me to do his website though, I was dissapointed when I went to the foremost leader in Voip news and I couldn't find the staff page...

And now I"ve gone and written several paragraphs about something I read and thought "Urhm, right.... that was dumb of me to read"

I hope you haven't wasted your time reading my comment too.
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scerruti
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Cancelling Vonage Reply with quote Back to top

tkeating wrote:
Headlines are only 1 piece of any article. You can't interpret what "Cancelling Vonage Difficulties" means simply from the headline.


European codes of journalism ethics wrote:
Headlines, leads, cover and picture captions, sales-promotion posters for publications and other presentation material must be justified by the body of the story.


I am certain that most journalism ethics codes have something similar. I disagree with your position that a headline is simply one piece of the story, it is simply unethical.

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scerruti
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Cancelling Vonage Reply with quote Back to top

tkeating wrote:
Regardless, shouldn't Vonage, on the leading edge of technology not offer MORE features than traditional landlines not less? Like I said in my post, they could have charged me for the forwarding service message and I would have paid it. Getting a few bucks from me is better than nothing at all.


No, absolutely not. You explained yourself that the motivation behind this is to give users a reason not to terminate service. From a business point of view it is much better for Vonage to not offer this service, the only benefit is to former customers.

There are other reasons not to do this too. We know Vonage is rapidly reusing numbers in areas with high demand. Why would they let you tie up a number for a few bucks when they can turn around and sell it to someone for $25?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Cancelling Vonage Reply with quote Back to top

tkeating wrote:

Also, if you ask me, "easy" cancelling would have been to allow me to cancel my service online. But requiring extra effort to call them escalates it to "medium". Giving me "attitude" and trying to hold the number portability issue over my head escalates it to "difficult".


I can't possibly begin to agree with this scale. How do you rate services that require you to send written notice to terminate service? I had to cancel my homeowners insurance in writing, I had to close a HELOC with a written request. In both cases I could make changes to these accounts via the phone or website. How do you rate services that fraudulently ignore your requests to cancel?

Look at the number of web pages dedicated to cancelling AOL accounts. There was a point where AOL was very difficult to cancel. Similarly look at the number of consumer complaints about music club cancellation issues.

You even pointed out yourself that you felt your wait time on the phone was less than for typical customer service calls.

Cancelling Vonage a year ago was much more difficult based on the complaints we saw in this forum. People still in their first year faced with issues of returning equipment in original packaging to get their cancellation fees refunded have a more difficult time than you did.

As far as attitude, wasn't your call specifically engineered to generate difficulties? Clearly you could have called up and politely but firmly cancelled without all these supposed difficulties?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I find your exchange of arguments very interesting..you both have a point to say... well, Vonage is just trying to retain as much customers as possible (as any business would do). maybe the rep was raising her voice because there have been a lot of instances when people brag of getting 50 usd service for cable and phone yet it's just a promo rate. Thus, she was just trying to point out that if that was the path you were to take, it's not worth leaving Vonage since its offering the service for only 24.99.

Perhaps, we should be less judgmental here; less name calling and also tone down the sarcastic tendencies. Also, i dont think the title "Cancelling Vonage Difficulties" is an appropriate title (my own opinion), because it was not really difficult to cancel the service (in your case). The rep was just trying trying to retain you as one of the customers, she didnt place you on hold nor was rude in any way (as i suppose). She was not being difficult on you as well because she was trying to see the reason why you wanted to leave...which means a little bit of probing and helping you with your issues. And she did cancel your service right? You didnt have much to do to cancel it, except to answer some of her questions. I dont think that would be difficult. By the way, what was your username for your web account?..just asking...
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scerruti
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Tom Keating wrote:
Now I'm a bit perturbed that she is questioning my decision to make the right financial choice for myself and my family. I thought about pulling out the "I'm a Voip blogger and writer for Internet Telephony Magazine" card just to shut her up, but instead I kept my cool since I wanted to see what else she had in her "Vonage customer retention script" she was no doubt reading from.


I think this paragraph is key. You admit yourself that you could have made this call much shorter. You are perturbed that someone, who knows nothing about how you made your decision, is questioning it.

On this forum we have had people come and post questions arising from misinformation given to them by cable companies. Do you honestly believe Vonage shouldn't be taking steps to help customers avoid being burned by misinformed or ill intentioned sales people?

Finally the whole meat of your article, that you had difficulties cancelling Vonage service, could be the result of one person at Vonage who, for all we know, might be having a bad day.

I stand by my criticisms and opinions;

You unethically titled you article.
For humorous effect you showed disrespect to people doing their jobs.
As a result, even understanding that you were attempting to be funny, you come off as pompous.

Now, your conclusion that Vonage is struggling because it is trying hard to keep customers certainly gets called into question. You base this masterpiece of deductive reasoning on the attitude of the CSR? In your opinion, how hard exactly should a company that pays hundreds of dollars to acquire a customer work to retain one?

I think it is time for you to admit that you went fishing for a story to support a conclusion and then, when the story failed to materialize, you created it by cleverly editorializing in the transcript and citing the 'tone' of a single individual to characterize the fortunes of an entire company.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

EzCo wrote:
scerruti wrote:
I just disagree with how he titled the article


9+ paragraphs just because you disagree with the title of an article? Readers Digest version next time please.


I apologize, the post was unfocussed and rambling and could have been more concise.

However, the problem is that I also said with regards to this article that "Tom comes off as a pompous jerk". I can't possibly make a statement like that without a detailed explanation of why I have that opinion. Otherwise I would come off as a pompous jerk. Wink Perhaps I should have left that statement out?

I would also like to be clear that I am not saying he is a pompous jerk or even that I think he is a pompous jerk. I find much of what he writes insightful and minimally pompastic.

Furthermore, based on those 9+ paragraphs, this thread continued to get to the root of the matter. Tom used this phone call to support his published opinion about Vonage's financial state, did he mischaracterize this call in order to justify that opinion? Clearly this is an issue of opinion but also of journalistic ethics that goes beyond a simply misleading headline or a single article or author and is more about the state of professional blogging in general.

I challenge the readers then to answer the following question for themselves. Tom ascribes the difficulties in large part to the attitude or tone of a single customer service representative. Does that justify his conclusion that Vonage is in financial trouble because it is making cancellations difficult?

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