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How to lose a customer in 78 words or less

How the message influences consumer behaviour.

Yesterday afternoon, while busy hunting insights, one half of Zeitgeist received an email from a popular gambling website. The reason they got in touch is that I hadn’t used my account for a year despite still having funds in it. Clearly a dormant customer doesn’t make them money so the idea of using the anniversary of my last bet as a excuse to engage with me makes sense. For a bookmaker, an active customer is almost always a source of guaranteed revenue. With the right message they could tempt me into a couple of bets and get some of that money into their own accounts.

However, instead of framing the situation as a great opportunity to enjoy some Christmas betting or offering me a free bet or bonus for using some of my funds before the end of the year the email made me feel like an inconvenience.

I’ll hide their identity, but the brief message was as follows

Dear Zeitgeist

We’ve noticed that it’s been a while since you’ve been active on xxx, so we thought we should remind you that you still have money in your account.

You should be aware that xxx administers an Inactive Account Fee on accounts that have been inactive for 13 months. As you have been inactive for at least 12 months, you’ll need to engage in activity on your account by the end of this month to avoid incurring the fee.

The tone is negative and looks like it was sent by a bank or utility company rather than an innovative gaming site. Instead of encouraging me to make a bet or offering me an incentive to start re-using the site, the message gave me the options of leaving the money there and incurring charges or withdrawing it all. The former makes no sense to me, the latter little sense to them.

Inevitably, with the expense of Christmas very much front of mind, I opted to withdraw the money and close my account. A welcome cash injection for me, but a lost customer that they’ll have to work hard to recover for them.

If only they had realised that the power of a poorly constructed email, as a call to action, was greater than millions of pounds worth of advertising.

Does anyone have any other examples of brands pushing customers away instead of encouraging them to come back?

  1. Christine Asbury
    December 21, 2010 at 11:45 am | #1

    I got that email too. Found I had £4.03 but couldn’t get it back because my debit card had expired and they couldn’t transfer it to a new one. The only option was to spend it, grudgingly.

    What is really dismaying is how out of character the email was compared to their jolly, matey, blokey telly ads – yes it’s Betfair – and I am surprised that they got this so badly wrong. But they did. Yep another lost customer here. Both disappointed and feeling ripped off.

    And the £4.03? Spent it on the dogs, because that was where it was going in any case.

  2. December 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm | #2

    Thanks for your comment Christine. I had the same problem with the expired card but added a new one and rang them up when it wouldn’t let me withdraw.

    Eventually they had to add £10 to activate the card then transfer it all out to the new card.

    The urgency of the initial email and threat of incurring costs means you have to act fast. And because I was at work I didn’t have time to start finding tasty bets.

    It’s a shame because their unique business model offers opportunities to re-engage dormant account holders.

  3. December 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm | #3

    Great post.

    They should have probably just said: “Dear Customer, Eat shit! We are taking your money. Good Day…”

    At least then you know that they are deliberate about their poor service.

    Dan Waldschmidt
    http://www.edgyconversations.com

  1. December 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm | #1
  2. June 1, 2011 at 8:56 am | #2

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