How not to manage customer relations

I've noticed a couple of recent examples of inexpert customer relations from companies large enough to know better.

One arrived in via email yesterday afternoon, from my insurance company (Farmers Insurance). It touted its "Go Paperless" program, in which its customers could elect to receive policy-related documents electronically (gee...what a cutting edge idea!). Sounds innocuous, right? But here's where the wheels come off:
Signing up is easy.2 Just log into "My Farmers" and the "Go Paperless" banner will display if you qualify.  Also, if you are eligible you can sign up for e-Billing or you can continue to receive your bills in the mail. It's all up to you and it's all right at your fingertips on
The footnote reiterates: Not all policies qualify at this time. The Go Paperless banner will only display if you qualify for the paperless option.

So, they want me to go to the trouble of logging into their website in order to find out if I qualify? If they know my status already, why didn't they take that into account before sending the email?

To add insult to injury, I inexplicably don't qualify, even though I pay all my premiums (three policies worth) online. But - and here's the other flaw in this approach - how can I be sure that there isn't just a glitch in their system, or in my browser settings, or in my internet connection, that temporarily disabled or otherwise prevented that banner from displaying? This is a poor way to roll out a new feature, from several perspectives.

Then there's my cable/internet provider, Suddenlink. They went to the expense of mailing a letter that contains this ominous paragraph (emphasis mine):
Since early in 2007, Suddenlink has been providing high value bundled pricing for our multiple product customers. On next month's bill, you will see a price adjustment. The new rates of our bundled packages still represent a value savings over 30% off our a la carte pricing. [...] We apologize for any inconvenience these changes may cause you.
Is it obvious that Suddenlink is announcing they're raising their rates? (And, indeed, the bill that arrived this morning via email* reflects a 5% increase.) They're making their customers work to figure that out. And the "insult to injury" factor in this case is the apology for the implied burden "these changes" (whatever they might be).

These are both examples of how companies do a disservice to their customers, the first by taking technological shortcuts and the second by generating disingenuous and ambiguous communication.

*Suddenlink's website is the online equivalent of a never really know where you'll end up when you click a link. I've yet to figure out the logic behind its structure, and it sometimes seems that the same link leads to different places.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on April 8, 2011 7:51 AM.

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