Goodbye, beloved country | online media
After 18 years in Cape Town and all my life in South Africa, I decided to settle in Spain (with a one-year visa, with the possibility of renewal depending on the evolution). And so I had to endure the long and complicated process of canceling various local services – an experience so painful that I wonder if I’ll ever subscribe to it again, assuming I ever return.
First on the list was unsubscribing all promotional senders. It should have been pretty simple, but it’s amazing how many companies still send out marketing emails without the ability to opt out with a single click. They will redirect you to a page and then ask you to deselect all the things you no longer want. Or they’ll ask you to enter your email address (because they don’t already have it?) and then click a button to unsubscribe. Oh, and let’s not even get into Dis-Chem, who kept sending me marketing spam because “your emails are prescreened a month in advance” SERIOUSLY? !
There were also waiting periods in the real world. For example, Virgin Active canceled my membership with no problem (although it’s only effective after 20 working days, which means I’ll still pay part of a month’s fee for broken equipment that I won’t be using not even). I imagine it was because I had chosen “emigration” as the reason; anything else and I probably would have been the subject of a sales pitch. Meanwhile, Bonitas (also requiring one calendar month’s notice) insisted that I email the “retentions” department – you know, because asking to leave requires you to get in touch with the people who intimidate you to stay put.
The worst was Web Africa, which lets you do everything online (from updating your account to changing your address), but insists you contact the WhatsApp line if you want to cancel your service. So that’s how I ended up waiting nearly two hours for a response, only to have to contact them on Twitter so someone could contact me. Yes, I understand that companies can and should do everything in their power to convince customers to stay – acquisition costs far more than retention, after all – but they also need to respect customers enough to facilitate the process, no matter what they decide.
Part of making things easy means making things automated. This is another thing that confused me when it comes to changing the debit order details for the services that I will need to keep. For example, the city of Cape Town insists that you complete and email a PDF form to update your bank details. And of course, this same form is then manually entered by another person (even if it would have been much easier for you to update your details online). This old-school way of doing things is why they’ll tell you that “a request of this nature can take up to 30-60 business days to complete.” SERIOUSLY?!
The same goes for Auto and General, who don’t give you the option to update your bank details on their website but insist on doing so over the phone. So I reached out via Twitter and told them what time I would be available for one of their consultants to call them. Guess what? They called outside the specified window, didn’t leave a voicemail (because no one does anymore?), bombarded me with texts saying they couldn’t reach me, then insisted that I call them instead. Eventually we logged in and they applied the changes…except the debit order was still issued by the wrong account. And so I had to make another long phone call, which included ridiculous questions about whether or not my furniture warehouse had a thatched roof, simply because their consultant was forced to follow a script that didn’t made no sense to me.
A similar thing happened with the property management company that takes monthly levies. Despite the fact that I completed an online form to change my details (and despite assurances that “the payments team will take this into account and modify accordingly”), the debit order still originated from the wrong account . The only company that got it right was Discovery Life, which allows you to change your bank details right on their website. Unfortunately, you cannot make any changes to your coverage online. This meant I had to go through an endless series of emails with the financial adviser who sold me the policy (there were delays due to a “technical problem with the maintenance quote”), more phone calls (when the email went unanswered), and another small mountain of PDF forms.
Overall, the process has been so exhausting and complicated that I wonder why we still insist on doing things the way we always have. (Don’t even tell me about my half-hour wait at an FNB branch, filled to the brim with people who don’t seem to realize there are faster ways to open or close an account, all because their online channels for international card authorization were not working at that time.) What’s wrong with using automated methods to exit or register for a service ? Perhaps, for legal reasons, they need a voice recording or a physical signature of your agreement to various terms. Or maybe it’s just companies failing to stay ahead of the times.
Can we at least stop manually filling out and emailing PDFs when we live in a world of blockchain contracts and such? (It’s 2022, folks!) After all, there’s a reason data capture is one of the roles on the fast track to obsolescence through technology. Indeed, in many of my cases, it seems like too many manual steps and too many forgetful humans have taken what should have been simple and turned it into a mess.
At the same time, you have to wonder if some companies deliberately make it so hard for you to leave that you’ll just give up and stay. But what kind of customer will you be if you stay against your will? (There are parallels here with emigration, but I won’t go into detail.) Better to let them go without a fight. In fact, if they’ve made up their mind, you might as well do something good for your brand by ending the relationship with a personalized, memorable “we’ll miss you!” comment. ” when you’re gone. With that kind of final impression, you might (eventually) win them back.
Eugene Yiga was born in South Africa and has lived in this amazing country all his life. And although he studied finance, accounting and classical piano at the University of Cape Town, he now works as an editor, journalist and blogger with two and a half years of full-time experience in the field of strategy. branding, communications and market research.
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