Cancelling Vonage Difficulties

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Cancelling Vonage Difficulties

VonageI thought I would share my interesting experience with cancelling my Vonage service. I recorded the entire call, including the traversal over their IVR to reach an agent. Surprisingly, I was connected pretty quickly to an agent. I was expecting a much longer hold time. Perhaps customers leaving Vonage are given a higher priority in the queue, lest the customer become more irate with less chance of convincing the customer to stay?

In any event, here's the recording conversation with Vonage in "all its glory". The recorded call was edited to take out personal information as well as deleting some extraneous silence, but other than that it's the call verbatim. 
Here is the MP3 of the call, and below is the transcript with my inline comments/thoughts/opinions, etc. Listen in on the call and read along!

Vonage: Thank you for calling account management, how may I assist you today?

Tom: Yes, my name is Tom Keating and I'd like to cancel my Vonage account

Vonage: Can I please have your account number or telephone number?

Tom: [Edited]

Vonage: Ok. [keystrokes]. Ok sir, for privacy and security purposes can please confirm your email address as well as your billing address.

Tom: [Edited]

Vonage: Thank you very much sir. Now ummm. Sir, I see you've been with us for quite some time now. Is there a specific reason why you are choosing to cancel today?

Tom: I found a double-play package that was less expensive.

(in a voice that seemed to doubt I found something was less than Vonage)

That was less expensive?

Tom: Through AT&T/SBC - they offer $50 for voice & data.

Vonage: For voice and [clears throat, perhaps due to shock for $50 for voice & data?] Internet?

What she doesn't believe me on the $50 price for both?
Tom: Correct.

Vonage: Oh well, they offered you that for now, but how long is that package going to last???

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.

Tom: I believe they said 1 year and then it goes to $65.

Next line is clearly a line from her call script. She is also leveraging a known sales technique in asking the customer questions rather than making statements. By keeping the customer talking you help build a rapport with the customer and more importantly, you might find a vulnerability to exploit

Vonage: Oh ok. And that's your preferable price range?

Tom:[slightly taken aback] Uhhh. Yes. That's a pretty good deal. We also had some voice over IP quality issues on the line.
[Realizing to myself that I just opened the door for her to offer a way to solve our QoS issues]

sure enough…

Vonage: Well, I see you're right in Brookfield, Connecticut. We do have home installation agents out there that will be able to assist you with any audio issues you may have

[long pause] I'm thinking to myself, Brookfield is a small town, you mean to tell me Vonage is going to spend money to send some "home installation agent" to my house? At first I thought, this must cut into Vonage's profit margins just to try and keep 1 customer. But then I thought, "Well, if this Vonage agent can convince me to try and have them troubleshoot my problems, they might get to keep me as a customer for another 2-3 months." That's ~$25 X 3 months = $75 more in Vonage pockets. This reminds me of my gym which had in its contract that I had to give 2 months notice before cancelling. In other words, I was stuck paying $70/month x 2 months = extra $140 in the gym's pockets. What a scam!

As these thoughts are going through my head I then say…

Tom: What… Do they troubleshoot the network or something?

Vonage: No actually, we have technicians that will be able to come to your home and check out the issue. In case there's a bandwidth ummm.. It could be an issue with the bandwidth or whatever the case may be. We also have an elite team down the hall from me that are advanced. They're more advanced than any other technical support team in voice over IP in the country. So I mean, I just wish we were able to speak with you in reference to your issue so we could have possibly, you know, helped you out with this situation instead of you leaving.

Thinking to myself - "Elite team? Ha!" LOL!

Tom: Well, you're bound by my ISP - my Charter Communications cable company with their bandwidth. If their bandwidth is bad, then you guys can't do anything about it.

Vonage: Well, we also have a bandwidth saver. It goes from 30 to if I'm not mistaken to 60 to 90 and it can be adjusted in certain ways so where it will work better with your ISP bandwidth. That's what I meant.. I'm sorry I didn't make it more specific - your bandwidth saver with Vonage I mean.

realizing that the Bandwidth Feature is a crappy solution at best, especially since the voice quality suffers. My wife complained even when I had it set to the middle setting. Forget about the lowest 30kbps setting! Sounds like crap.

I decide to play along.

Tom: I'm aware of that feature from the web browser you can change from 90, which is the higher quality voice down to the lower Bandwidth Saver, where the voice quality is not as good, but it uses less bandwidth, correct?

Vonage: Yes. Sir.

Tom: Yeah, I tried that. That didn't help.

Vonage: That didn't help? And were you able to speak to our advanced technical support team?

By now, I can't help but hold the phone receiver away from ear as I smile and let out a little chuckle. She's suggesting that I talk to their "elite" and "advanced" technical support team to troubleshoot broadband VoIP?

I take it she doesn't recognize the name "Tom Keating", as one of the first people to write about Vonage, one of their earliest customers, I test VoIP for a living, and I'm one of the predominant VoIP bloggers. I guess you're never as famous as you think you are. Least that's what my wife tells me!

Early on, Vonage predominantly used the Komodo/Cisco ATA-186 product, which as far as I know, I was the first to test and write a review. Thus, it was bemusing to me that I reviewed the FIRST Cisco ATA-186 used by Vonage, BEFORE it was even a Cisco product. In fact, I got one of the earliest prototypes of the Komodo Fone 300 ATA device, which I reviewed for Internet Telephony Magazine back in 2000. Interestingly, Komodo was acquired by Cisco soon after my TMC Labs review and the Komodo 300 became the popular Cisco ATA-186. Maybe they liked my review? Rich Tehrani also covered Komodo extensively and linked to my TMC Labs review.

Having enough of playing "coy", I decide to let the cat outta the bag and tell her exactly who I am.

Tom: uhhh. Actually, I write for Internet Telephony Magazine, so I'm pretty familiar with voice over IP.

Vonage: You said you write for a magazine?

I'm so hurt. A Vonage rep isn't familiar with Internet Telephony Magazine, the #1 magazine covering the VoIP industry? (not to mention the first VoIP magazine), (sarcasm here folks, I don't expect a customer support rep to know about Internet Telephony Magazine. Though, TMCers that have visited their offices have seen Internet Telephony Magazines strewn throughout their office)

Tom: Yes, that covers the VoIP space.

[long pause]

Vonage: Ok, so does that mean you would not like to speak to our advanced technical support team?

By now I'm struggling to contain my laughter and also thinking how incredible it was that not only is she not familiar with the fact that I write about VoIP for the predominant VoIP magazine, she's still trying to get me to talk to their elite technical support team.

Tom: That's correct. I think I'm happy with where I'm heading.

Vonage: Were you planning on porting your number?

Clearly part of their script as a "last ditch" effort to keep the customer. Vonage knows full well that it is very difficult to port from Vonage back to a carrier, such as SBC/AT&T, is damn near impossible. Go read my number portability article for more on this. Scaring customers about losing their phone number might cause some to reconsider leaving Vonage. I thought about "playing along" and saying I'd like to port my number just to see what she would say. But I had enough, so decided to tell her…

Tom: uhhh.I tried actually and they said they couldn't, so I lost the number.

Vonage: Ok… [long pause]
[appears to me she searching for another rebuttal in her call script since clearly I shot down the number portability issue]
Vonage: [almost exclaiming as though this is the rebuttal that will get me to stay]
AND WE ALSO HAVE A NEW UNLIMITED PLAN (voice lowers) but I see that you were here on the 500 plan. We have an unlimited plan and it is $20/month as opposed to the usual $25.

another last ditch effort to get me to stay by offering $20/month instead of the usual $25/month. (technically $19.99 vs. $24.99) Both Russell Shaw and I wrote about this discounted rate offered by Vonage to try and keep a customer that is planning to defect.

Tom: Yeah, I didn't have high usage, so it was better when I had the 500 minute plan.

Vonage: [lots of typing. Apparently has gone through her script and resigned to the fact that I am cancelling] And sir, your account is now disconnected. You will receive a confirmation email regarding the matter. Is there anything else I can assist you with at this time, sir?

Tom: What happens when someone dials my old number?

Vonage: It will say that is disconnected.

Tom: Ok. Is there any way of saying like a forwarding number or anything like that?

Vonage: No sir.

Yet another reason why choosing a VoIP service providers can bite you in the ass if you move or want to change your phone number. If you choose any traditional carrier, they will at least offer a forwarding number message, usually at a nominal fee - so at least your family, friends, and accounts (credit card, banks, cable TV, etc.) can find you at your new number. Vonage could have charged me $5/month for a forwarding number and I would have gladly paid it for 3-4 months while I notified everyone about the new number.

Tom: Ok. Not a problem.

Vonage: Ok.

Tom: All right. Thank you.

Vonage: Thank you very much, sir. Enjoy your day. Bye.

All in all, the Vonage agent was polite, but she did try to pull every trick in the book to get me to stay as a customer. She was clearly utilizing a script provided to her by Vonage corporate. I couldn't help but be reminded of the infamous case of Vincent Ferrari, an AOL customer, who attempted to cancel his AOL service only to get a lot of flack from the AOL rep. While my case wasn't nearly as bad, usually when companies try this hard to keep you as a customer, then the company is struggling. Just look at AOL and their struggles and how they've basically had to offer a lot of their services for free, which previously they charged for. If AOL's stuggles are any indication, this may not bode well for Vonage or their investors.

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