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Good Copywriters Don’t Let Clients Insult Their Customers’ Intelligence…

So, I use this web-based service to manage book sales, ebook downloads and other jobs on the publishing side of my business (I’m being vague here so as to not name names, though, given the circumstances, I’m not exactly sure why…).

In any case, I pay this company $1000 a year for this service. Not an insubstantial sum of money. And for ponying up a grand, annually, I feel entitled to pick up the phone when I have the occasional technical question, call their toll-free support line and get an answer. Seems pretty fair.

So, I call in the other day with a question, and I’m informed that, as of that day, 10/1, the only way I can get no-charge technical support by phone from now on is if I ante up another 379 bucks a year. Almost 40% of the price of the package I have (their most expensive one).

I give the guy an earful. Which I suspect is about the 50th time that day (being changeover day and all…) he’s been yelled at. He invokes a ridiculous apple-to-oranges analogy of how Microsoft charges for support, until I point out that most people have MS software bundled with their computer when they buy it, so Microsoft isn’t making a ton of money off that sale, making it a bit more logical that they’d charge for support.

He magnanimously allows me to ask my question that day, letting me know that the next time I call I’ll have to pay up. All in all, pretty outrageous, and we could rail on and on about the death of customer service, Companies Behaving Badly, etc. But, the main point of this post is what happened next.

A short time later, I get an email from the company (which they’d apparently sent before 10/1 but I’d missed it) outlining the new service.

Now. Not like I’m right or anything, but my gut tells me that when you’re going to implement a major change to your existing support offering – one that will undoubtedly make a lot of people very unhappy – you don’t compound the inevitable backlash by insulting their intelligence in how you present it…

Here’s how it looked…

1SCScrnCpture

Now, tell me. Do you see ANY acknowledgment whatsoever in this email of the hard reality? Specifically, that, “From this day forward, Valued Customer (who gives us $1000 a year, and has been enjoying no-charge phone support as part of that handsome fee), you’ll no longer get it unless you fork over nearly 400 additional clams.”

Nope. Instead, they blow smoke: “…important extension to our support services…. Ultimate Unlimited Support…extra level of support…blah, blah, blah.” Yeah, they hint around with, “…to continue taking advantage of these personalized services” but nowhere is an honest admission of any kind, something like: “We apologize for this change, but due to rising manpower costs, and overuse of our phone support…etc, etc. etc.” Something, ANYTHING that sounds sincere.

No question, I still wouldn’t have been happy but at least I’d respect them for not insulting my intelligence.

I’ve seen this over and over. Why do companies shun honest communication and opt instead for painfully obvious and laughably ineffective subterfuge? I know, common sense is all too uncommon in Corporate America, but that’s the pat answer. I’m digging for more here.

Don’t they know that we as consumers respond better to honesty? Who was advising them here? All I know, is that if I were hired by a company to write something like this, I’d be sounding the alarm loud and clear that they were making a mistake.

Why DO companies do this?

Can you share any similar examples?

Am I wrong here?

Am I overreacting?