Gimme a free cell phone, dagnabit! (more oddball anti-customer-retention practices)

I just don’t understand the lack of interest in customer retention.

Two months ago, Dish Network lost me as a long-term customer because it was cheaper for me to drop the account and have my partner start a new account at the new address than it was to move the existing account to the new address.

Now, I’m getting the same nonsense from Cingular.

I’ve got a tired old phone that doesn’t even have a color screen or downloadable ringtones. I stumble across an offer at Amazon for a new phone. A rather snazzy new phone. Not just any snazzy new phone, but a Motorola Razr. In black. For free, after rebate. The snag is, this offer is only for new customers.

Looks like I’ll need to print off the page from Amazon about the free phone and head over to the Cingular shop to see if they can match the offer. Or do I need to drop my current account and start a new one? The account’s so old, I’m not even on a contract. I think perhaps four people have my cell number, so it’s not going to be a huge difficulty.

I would think the costs of cancelling one account and starting up a new one would be more than simply changing the phone on an existing account.

Why aren’t companies interested in keeping customers, rather than letting them “churn” in and out?

Bear in mind many companies have a category called ‘returning customer’ and if you fall into that category, you’d be ineligible for ‘new customer’ perks.

Yep, I just ran into this situation with Sprint. Our previous contract (under my wife’s name) had run out (despite Sprint doing everything in their power to keep tossing us back onto contracts without giving us anything for it- once, they tried to get us onto contracts because we wanted to change our numbers because we’d moved to a new area). And yet, if we were new customers, we would’ve gotten all sorts of bennies like free phones.

Luckily, when we bought our new phones, we were able to put the new phones into my name. Our town doesn’t really have coverage for much other than Sprint- otherwise, we would’ve happily abandoned Sprint for some other company.

It’s kind of sad that the phone companies care more about getting new customers than making sure their existing customers want to stay loyal.

Well, Verizon has a new every two deal for existing customers. As long as you sign a new contract (which the new customers typically have to do anyway) you get a free phone, similar to the deal for new customers. So it seems like at least one company is trying to keep customers.

Half true. You get a free phone up to $100. I count ten phones that meet that price break (not including more expensive phones on “online only” discounts. So if you want something lower-frills, you’re fine. But if you want something to really make you feel snazzy for that new two year plan (because what’s the point of upgrading a vanilla phone with a vanilla phone?), you’re gonna pay more. Verizon wins because they get you on another two year contract, and Verizon wins because if you want a phone that is worth the replacement, you’re shelling out a few more bucks over that $100 floor. Other than sticking cameras in everything, not much else has changed in two years.

I used to sell Verizon phones, so take this for what its worth.

New customers get the prices you see on their webpage when they sign a 2-year contract. Return customers who qualify for the new-every-two (22 months into their 24 month contract on a price plan of $39.99 or higher the whole time) get that price plus an additional $100 off (along with some messiness that comes with rebates we won’t get into).

Anyway, yes, return customers always, always, always get a better deal on their phones than new customers when they deal with Verizon Wireless directly. Resellers like Amazon get a commission from the carrier, but that commission is much higher on new lines than upgrades. That’s why typically online places won’t do upgrades at all.

The particularly savvy customers goes to a reseller to get a killer deal on their first phone, then directly to corporate to get the upgrades. Of course, as far as I know, Verizon is the only company offering better deals to return customers. They take retention very seriously.

The other thing about the Verizon deal is that if you have multiple phones with a Family share plan (like we have) you still only get one free phone - can’t replace them all.

Yeah, because the other lines on the plan don’t come in at $39.99. However, the other lines still get new customer pricing as long as they’ve completed 22 out of their 24 month contract (and sign a new one, of course).