How to lose a loyal customer: Exhibit AT&T

AT&T recently installed fiber optic in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods and offered most of my neighbors gigabit internet service for $45 per month.

They sent two sales reps to my door to sell me the new service, only to discover that it wasn’t available at my address.

So, AT&T lost a 13 year customer. The cancellation conversation went something like this:

AT&T Rep: “We can upgrade you from 75 Mps to 100 Mps for $50 per month, which will save you about $20.”

Me: “So, you are offering me 1/10th what you offer my neighbors for $5/month more when you competitor is offering 5x that? Does that sound like a good deal to you?”

AT&T Rep: “No sir. I see what you’re saying.”

I’ve been pleased with my AT&T service for 13 years. I never complained or threatened to cancel to try to get a better deal as lots of folks do. It was doing the job. I never noticed issues with buffering or speeds, even as the number of devices connected to the net in my household has grown.

But, they shifted the goalposts by offering a product that appears to be 10x better than what they give me at a lower price to my neighbors, which suddenly shifted the paradigm on the service they give me to look like mush.

It added fuel to fire when the sales reps assured me that it was ‘very rare’ for them to skip houses and that it was usually just a matter of ‘getting their computers updated’ or ‘having someone come out and run the lines’. They made it sound easy. They gave me some hope that it was still coming.

Then, when I followed up with customer service, as one of the sales folks suggested I do, I was told that there were no plans to make it available. That seemed strange to me since the AT&T boxes sit one lot away from our block in the middle of a neighborhood that now has fiber.

One benefit that I got out of the experience is to be less hesitant to evaluate my options and switch. I discovered that switching was much easier than staying and trying to convince them to give me the service that they had two people try to sell me.

That’s the beauty of the power of exit versus the power of voice and a good example of why competition is a good thing. I wish their were even more competitors for internet service. I’m looking forward to more wireless competitors popping up with 5G and satellites.

Here’s how I ended my cancellation conversation: “If you ever want to win my business back, it’s pretty simple. Give me what you can give my neighbors.”

And that resulted in what?

One problem in the business world is that business folks approach business problems as if they are school assignments to be graded rather than trying to make something customers want.

Another problem in the business world is that their bosses often do grade their work as a school assignment, on the inputs rather than the outputs.

One of my old bosses taught me a trick to snap people out of this. Ask “and that resulted in what?”

If an MLS team is worth $800 million, I have a bridge to sell you

Try $25 – $50 million. Maybe $100 million for a top one.

More people watch the Little League World Series on TV than the MLS Cup.

Soccer in the U.S. is all frosting, no cake

For development, organized soccer is the frosting. Soccer played at home and in the streets is the cake.

Soccer in the U.S. is all frosting and no cake.

Clubs and coaches did not make Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Pulisic, Donovan, Dempsey. Soccer at home and the streets did. Clubs and coaches just put the frosting on the cake.

Common anti-pro/rel in soccer point: “Business people don’t want to invest in pro soccer with the risk of relegation”

Counterpoint: Some won’t. Others will. We want the ones that will, not the ones that won’t.

Who are role models for young soccer players in the US?

In countries with soccer clubs stacked in levels going from the very top to neighborhood clubs, young players entering the organized sport at age 8 are usually coached, or assistant coached, by the 16-18 year old players from the club’s senior ranks.

In such a setup, the young players have natural role models that they interact with every week for 10 months of the year that gives them a line of sight to the type of soccer players the should want to become.

They look up to their young coaches, they want to watch their games on the weekend to see how they play and they want to strive toward playing like them, someday.

This gives those young players a long-term vision of the direction they should be headed that young soccer players in the US do not have.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a comment on Twitter about youth teams in the US chasing tournament trophies rather than development.

That’s true. Without the vision of how they should be playing by age 15 or so, wins and trophies now are all they have to go by.

Unfortunately, winning can actually have the negative effect of making development tougher as it’s tough to convince the players and parents of winning players that they still have work to do.

When young players have role models, they can win games and still be thinking long-term because they may want to be able to make the club’s senior team someday.

Baloney Land

Persuasion tactics are all around us if you know how to spot them. Behavioral economics and government “nudge” units are versions of persuasion tactics.

These are mental hacks that folks think they can use to get you to do things that they believe are the right things to do.

If you’d like to know, a good place to start is Robert Cialdini’s book, Pre-sausion, A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.

The title of the book is misleading. Perhaps that’s a persuasion tactic, itself? The book isn’t about ‘a’ way to influence and persuade, but rather covers a laundry list of these tactics that have been discovered over the past few decades, describing origins and research.

Cialdini even broaches the topic of morality in using these tactics and warns that one risk of is loss of trust as people discover they’ve been manipulated.

Reading the book will give you a new way to see the world and you will see these tactics everywhere and you might recognize how much baloney you are surrounded with