Gracefully ending client relationships is key to customer experience.

Customer experience is a top priority for many organizations. Yet, many of these same organizations seem ignore to ignore one of the most critical parts of a customer relationship – bringing it to an end.

For a few years I’ve had Verizon’s FIOS Internet and TV bundle. Recently, however, Teresa and I decided to cut the cable. Thinking it should be easy (I even found a “how to” published by Verizon themselves), I priced our options, signed up for Sling and went to execute my plant with Verizon. It was a rather simple thought – cancel the TV subscription and upgrade my internet connection.

Of course, nothing is that easy. First, Verizon refuses to allow cancellations – only upgrades – through their online self service portal. Second, when we finally got through to a Customer Services rep we were notified that not only did I need to pay a $140 unbundle fee, but that the cost of my internet service would increase to over $100. Of course, it’s advertised as $35 for new customers.

Really? Why not just make it easy to do business with you?

This reminded me of another “cancellation” experience I recently had.

From extremely loyal to no longer a customer

For the past two years I have been a Washington Nationals season ticket holder. I’m a passionate baseball fan and love taking my family, friends and business associates to games. The club seats that I have provide a great experience, and, given that baseball is a “social” game, it’s a fun way to get “quality time” with folks. Last September the Nats, with my previous agreement, automatically renewed my ticket subscription. As soon as I saw the charge go through I reached out to let them know that I was still contemplating what to do next year and asked them to refund the first charge and hold off on billing me until I figured out what I wanted to do. Spring Training was still 6 months away, after all.

Assuming that this meant I wanted to cancel my subscription, the Nats refused. In fact, they got downright combative, throwing the contract I had signed in my face and refusing to even pause my billing while I considered my options. In fact, they wouldn’t even let me stop the auto-renewal for this coming year. They insisted that their contract only allows cancellations in the month of August.

Through that correspondence, the Nats lost a (very) loyal customer. I went from a promoter to a detractor. Despite loving baseball, despite loving the Nats Park experience, despite baseball being a passion of nearly our entire family of 9, and despite the fact that I love baseball in business settings, I have decided to cancel my subscription and not do business with the Nats any longer. The Nats were downright hostile. I went from contemplating how to get more use and value out of my half season commitment (increase the number of seats? do more company events? down grade to a different section, cancel all together and just buy individual tickets, etc….) to downright despising giving the Nats my money. Handled the right way, the Nats could have upsold me. Handled the way I was, they lost my business, and my referrals.

What’s your termination process like?

Every interaction with a customer – even one in which they are looking to downgrade service or cancel a subscription – matters. Gracefully ending a relationship builds rapport and trust. It opens the possibility that the customer will change their mind, come back or at least say good things about you in public.

What’s your client termination process like? Do you make it easy? Do you help make smooth the transition? Do you communicate that providing the most value possible is your commitment? Or, are you communicating that taking your customers money is the only thing that matters?