Hello From the Other Side: Please Cancel My Account

26 Mar 2018

I usually get my article ideas from real-life experiences. While I can write in theory about a new or popular technology, nothing brings it home like a situation we can actually relate to, right?

So here is the disclaimer: the subject matter of this article is a bit sad, however, the “use case” is very real. Hang with me.

Recently I was faced with the task of closing out affairs on behalf of my now deceased best friend and best brother ever. Along the way I contacted one of the world’s largest internet and cable providers to give them a heads up that he would no longer be needing his account. Since my bro provided me with his commonly used passwords before he crossed, I was able to access his online account and start an online chat session with customer service that went something like this:

Chat session subject line: “Deceased Account Holder”

Agent: Hello. Who am I speaking with today?

Me: Hi, this is Tracy

Agent: Hi, Tracy. How can I help you?

Me: I am accessing this chat from my brother’s account. I am saddened to report that Mr. Paul is recently deceased and will no longer need this account. I need to shut it down

Agent: I am so sorry for your loss. Let me check a few things to see if the account is closed. Can you provide me with the PIN on the account or address of service?

Me: I don’t know the PIN but the address is 543 Hisstreet, Anytown, USA

Agent: Thank you. I am checking here……[on hold a bit]   

Agent: I am so sorry but I am unable to help you. You will need to go into a store to transfer the account

Me: Well, as I mentioned, Mr. Paul is deceased so unless your coverage area extends to the Great Beyond then it will need to be closed not transferred

Agent: I see.....let me check something else……  

Agent: Unfortunately Mr. Paul did not add you to his account so only Mr. Paul can make changes to his account

Me: As I mentioned, Mr. Paul is deceased so I am afraid that is not possible. I can supply a copy of the death certificate if needed

Agent: You are not on the account so I cannot help you

Me: Is there any other person attached to Mr. Paul’s account?

Agent: No

Me: So since he is deceased how can I close this account?

Agent: I am sorry for your inconvenience however perhaps if you go into a store they can help you?

Me: I don’t even live in your state AND it’s not an inconvenience to me; it was a heads up to you – you can continue to bill for this service however it will never be paid. The account holder is deceased

Agent: Again, I am REALLY sorry for your inconvenience and hope you have a great day. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Me: Nope. Have a great day

I can speculate what will happen next. This service provider will continue to bill for the service, send overdue notices, eventually shut it down for non-payment, continue to send more and more “final notice” billing statements, and perhaps even at some point sell the bad debt for pennies on the dollar to some unsuspecting collection agency who will never be able to collect from a dead man.

The question I was wondering is if technology could have helped avoid this? I realize the agent was doing her job as initially instructed by not allowing random access to another person’s account. However surely the provider has procedures for dealing with a deceased account holder in a cleaner manner?

It occurred to me that this may be a perfect use case for contact center analytics. For example, although this type of situation may be considered too much of a fringe case to include in an agent’s basic training, why not let analytics find the word “deceased” (mentioned several times in this session) and direct the agent to a procedure to follow here? Or perhaps direct the agent to escalate the session.

Recently, at Enterprise Connect, I met with several vendors ranging from those providing team collaboration applications, to many forms of tools for the contact center, video solutions, cloud communications and even border session tools who all claimed to have incorporated analytics, AI and learning into their solutions. The ways in which these technologies are being used are often quite interesting.

Yet in real life we have all had frustrating experiences where it seems the use of analytics could have helped to give us first resolution. Or, if not first resolution, how about someone using analytics after the fact to contact me and provide resolution (and by the way, I expect them to know my story so I don’t have to repeat it).

We have the technology, what are the barriers to adoption? This is something I intend to find out. Stay tuned.


Very insightful piece, Tracy, and you're right - this would be a perfect use of analytics. I often write about how companies need to improve agent engagement, and one way to do this is to empower agents to go off script to actually do the right thing to help the customer. This clearly wasn't the case in your unfortunate situation. Hopefully a contact center manager at the cable company listened to the recorded conversation and realized that they messed up, and will try to remedy this type of situation. One can hope...

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