The Fear that Haunts Teams and Hurts Customers

I was excited to sign up for their free trial.

We were looking to build an affiliate program, and this company seemed like a great fit. Integration was a bigger challenge than expected, so I put it off and our free trial expired.

When the $100 charge came in, I wrote to them:

Their response:

And thus endeth the relationship.

With our cash refunded, I was likely to return. Maybe say nice things about them to my network. Now? I can’t root for a company that puts fast cash before doing the right thing.

Companies like this only know how to play defense, reacting to problems and citing policy to protect their cashflow.

Can you guess how many emails I got during their free trial, to help me build a successful affiliate program? Lower. Lower… Yeah, that many. They weren’t at all invested in my success—they were rubbing their greedy palms, waiting for my free trial to convert. [end rant]

So what’s going on here?

This is a phenomenon that we’ve dubbed “the fear.”

The fear is what compels you to think twice before emailing a big client, not because you need to proofread your writing, but because you don’t want to remind them you exist. If they think about you, they may think about how they no longer need you.

A similar fear can also creep up before bulk emailing your list with content they may find valuable. What if this is a reminder to reconsider your value? Gah! Delete, delete, don’t send.

It’s the "hunker down" philosophy of people who fear loss more than they value gain.

Psychologically speaking, we all fear loss more than gain. But this doesn’t make fear the best driver of your business decisions.

Are you letting fear drive decisions? Are you hiding from any of your customers?

Stop. Just stop. Your business model is predicated on charging people who aren’t aware they are being charged, and that’s a dirty game to play.

Let’s take a closer look at the fear.

What kind of customer is worth hiding from?

  • A customer who doesn’t like what they are being sold.
  • A customer who won’t say good things about your company.
  • A customer who, if they realized they were still paying for your service, would get angry and not only cancel their service, but ask for a refund on previous months.

In Net Promoter Score terms, these customers are threes, fours, and fives. Firmly in the “meh”-zone. No ones and twos? Nope - those customers cared enough about your company to cancel.

So here’s the upshot: you end up hiding from customers who love you to avoid losing ones who don’t like you. That’s no roadmap to success.

It’s bad business, and a terrible culture to embrace.

Who wants to work for a company that makes decisions based on fear?

To be brave, and play to win, we can’t shy away from doing right by our customers.

Let’s leave the fear behind us.

What are we afraid of? Losing a customer. And what’s so bad about that? You lose the revenue in exchange for a valuable piece of data.

A cancelation is your opportunity to find out why they canceled, and what you could do to improve your business. You could start focusing on building more value. You could find a better way to sell your product or service. You could sell different things to the same customers.

You could find ways to keep people in your community, because they appreciate you, instead of hoping they don’t realize how much you suck.

To summarize, if you find yourself oppressed by “the fear,” there are great reasons why you should punch it and run toward the light.

  • Make the customers who like you, remember you, and possibly say nice things about you.
  • Learn from the customers who demand refunds. Why weren’t they satisfied?
  • Feel good, because you’re a good company doing good in the world.

The world doesn’t need another money-grabbing company parading under good design and a bad promise. The world needs companies who make people more awesome.