I recently spent 23 minutes on the phone — 20 of which were me listening to hold music — to cancel the online subscription to my local newspaper. That's a travesty of customer service, to say the least.
But it's also a reminder of something that the cord-cutting industry does very, very well — sometimes to its own detriment.
AT&T in its Q4 2018 earnings announced that DirecTV Now had lost some 267,000 subscribers as discounted sign-ups expired (and prices increased). What's a frugal cord-cutter to do? Cancel.
It should be as easy to cancel a service as it is to sign up for it in the first place.
DirecTV Now — and every single online video service I've used — makes it as easy to quit as it does to get started. Often times it's even easier to cancel, come to think of it. Click a few buttons, let them know that you're really sure you want to cancel, and that's that. They're sorry to see you go and hope you'll be a customer again one day.
And that's exactly the way things should be. It's the right way to do business in 2019. And make no mistake, it's all about business. Cord-cutting is all about making the most out of your money. It's not always easier than cable. It's not always better. But it's definitely flexible.
With the myriad streaming services available to us, there's almost no reason to stick it out with a service that's just not cutting it anymore. PlayStation Vue served me well for a long time. But glitches were becoming frustrating, so I canceled. DirecTV Now was getting to be more expensive than I wanted to pay, so I ditched it, too. It wasn't personal — both are great streaming services that I'll recommend to anyone — it was business.
But neither of them tried to trick me into staying, or made me sit on hold for 20 minutes just to have someone in a call center fumble through what for damned sure should have been able to be done online in the first place.
As AT&T saw in its fourth quarter, being able to cancel a service so easily isn't always the best thing for a service. But it's great for us as consumers of those services. In addition to just being easy, it means the services are going to have to do more to compete with each other. It means we'll have more choices at more price points that better suit our needs. If something's not working well enough, we'll leave it without a second thought. And one service's loss is another's gain. (Wonder why YouTube TV has been spending so much money promoting itself? There's your answer.)
I'm absolutely willing to try DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue — or any other streaming service that I've loved and let go — again, simply because there's very little friction in the onboarding and offloading process. It's a matter of clicks. It's the right way to do things, and it's a seamless customer experience.
I can't say the same thing about my local newspaper.
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