Hijacking As A Sales & Customer Retention Tactic

By Lysa Greer


Today, an unfortunate thing happened… I lost respect for a platform I have, until today, considered one of my favorite tools… and it all came down to this one experience…

In 2017, I started working with an online project management platform and fell in love with it: it was organized in a way that mimicked my logic, and I appreciated the many features that came within it. I used it for two years as a monthly subscriber, then, in 2019, renewed on an annual plan.

I’ve loved it and have 100% enjoyed my experience until today when I opted to adjust my subscription, which is up for renewal on the 22nd of this month. See, I’ve recently discovered a different tool, and while we aren’t 100% ready to move to it, we needed to consider adjusting the annual plan to monthly, AND, adjust the current five-team member plan to a three-team member option … well, this is where things quickly turned sour…

After a few screens of “look what you will lose!”, I landed on a screen that said:

Contact us to cancel your plan

To cancel your plan you’ll need to jump on a call with us.

Simply schedule a call using the option below for a time that suits you and we’ll be happy to help you.

It then prompted a scheduling button to schedule said call…oh, dear one… why have you hijacked our relationship?

Nevermind that all available times are AFTER my renewal date…

Nevermind that I have the money to cover the renewal cost…

The issue is they’ve taken away my ability to choose within my own business and experience.

It 100% felt like I wanted to leave an area I’ve loved and was met with a guard saying, “Oh, you can’t leave until you speak with the person in charge first.”

Let’s be clear: we all, as business owners, understand sales/customer retention and churn prevention tactics. It’s part of the reason I didn’t mind the two screens of “you’ll miss out on ALL these features!” and “here’s what you are losing if you downgrade [with highlighted bullet points and images]”.

I get it! We all are in business to profit in some way — but this way? to hijack me and go through a gatekeeper in order to simply make a choice for my business? This. Tactic. Is. TERRIBLE.

Moreover, it has turned my positive, over three-year experience into a sour, gotta reach out and give them a piece of my mind, AND shout it from the mountaintop one.

I have to wonder… who thought this was a good idea…?

Where and when did this tactic appear to be one that was considered even REMOTELY inline with that of a positive CUSTOMER experience?

Well, that’s just it…

This tactic isn’t thinking of the customer… not even a little.

It’s a shame… now, a tool I’ve used, loved, shared, and recommended is going to continue being shared… but not in the way they probably intended… and it all could have been avoided by simply not taking away my right to choose.

For the sake of full transparency, their support team replied…

hijacking tactic

Here’s where I feel they may not fully realize (but will soon) how this experience is missing the mark;

Support wrote:

[1]One thing that might not be clear is if a call isn’t available until after an upcoming renewal/payment, [2] we will pause any payments until we have spoken with you directly.
[3] So you can cancel or downgrade as you required just like if you had done so in-app.
  1. It’s not clear because it’s not stated. At all. Anywhere.
  2. Upon receiving a reminder email, after having scheduled this call two days ago, where do I have any of these assurances?
  3. But, you can’t! It ALWAYS prompts the call – and continues to send reminders!

To understand my need is not hard in this case: my need is to downgrade or cancel. Period. Not to be schooled or sold (because let’s be honest, that’s what it’s meant to do.)

Also — I feel when they say; “we certainly don’t want to see you go, but we’ll help you with whatever you’d like to do” it feels passive-aggressive since I can’t leave without talking to someone.

Lastly, stating that there is a department called “Customer Advocacy” brings into play a responsibility. To truly be a customer advocate means that, in fact, you do what is stated: understand MY need – the CUSTOMER. Nothing about this process felt that, in ANY way, they thought about me.

Suffice it to say, I’ve scheduled my call… and will be ready to share my experience.

The reality is this tactic is used a lot. However, these cancellation experiences may soon be altered in favor of the consumer.

According to Senate Bill No. 313, if you signed up online, you should be able to cancel online. Even though the law is only in the state of California, any nationwide or international businesses that want to operate in California need to comply with the bill, just as they do with Europe’s recent GDPR update.

Here’s the key takeaway from the bill:

“A consumer who accepts an automatic renewal or continuous service offer online shall be allowed to terminate the automatic renewal or continuous service exclusively online, which may include a termination email formatted and provided by the business that a consumer can send to the business without additional information.”

Now… how could this experience have been different and more favorable for BOTH parties? Let’s break it down:

  1. Give me the option and clear ability to downgrade my plan.
  2. Give me the option and clear ability to cancel my plan

Seems simple right? So, why don’t they do this? Simple. Sales tactic.

Here are cancellation process modifications that could give the customer back their choices while trying to keep the sale:

  1. Update plans so that customers can easily downgrade or purchase the service according to their needs (in this case, adjust it to a simple per-user option… which oddly IS available for new customers…).
  2. Should a customer choose to cancel, let them, but, also give them an option to talk to a representative to see if they can do something or offer help in any way (which, they are, but, not based on MY choice – it’s a forced choice right now).
  3. Set up a reminder to check back in with the customer post-cancellation (in cases when the phone call option isn’t taken). Again – allow the customer the choice to continue the relationship – period.
Have you ever felt hijacked in a sales or customer retention process? How did the experience make you feel, and how did you respond to the hijacker? I think the more we call this tactic out, the less it may be considered to be in use… at least that’s my hope.

About the Author

Lysa is a digital producer who helps service-based entrepreneurs fulfill their business vision through creative ideation, technical solutions, and relationship marketing. With 19 years of diverse experience in broadcast and digital media, she provides a wide range of opportunities to work with a variety of clients and teams, both virtually and in-person.


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Lysa Greer

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