eFax: How not to reduce churn

30 Apr

I needed to amend some company bank details and my bank, Santander, insisted that I had to either post in the changes or send a fax. I haven’t seen a fax machine in years, however a quick tweet did point me towards two online services. HelloFax,  a Y Combinator company, and eFax, a old-school looking service with the sort of design that makes you grimace.

Both companies offer a 30 day free trial. I’ll be honest, I was not intending using either service beyond this one fax.

I tried HelloFax first of all, but because I was faxing a 0800 number, HelloFax would not send the fax, which made them kinda useless. I then tried eFax and despite the fairly ugly user interface it did the job, and that’s what matters.

Whilst HelloFax have a free option, with multiple price tiers thereafter, eFax has one flat monthly subscription and requires you to enter your credit card at sign-up. *Warning bells*

Well yes I forgot to cancel the account before the 30 days free trial were up. Fair enough, I would pay their £7.50 monthly subscription for my one fax sent and cancel the account.

I could not find how to cancel the account from their fairly confusing UI, so I emailed their support to be told that I could only cancel the account by phoning customer support. *Warning bells again*

I haven’t phoned them yet. I don’t want to out of principle. If they can take my money online then they can cancel my account online. I don’t need them to “help me”. I think it was the credit score companies that used to be notorious for only allowing you to cancel your subscription to your personal credit reports by phoning them up, whereupon the customer service representative would try to persuade you that you really needed to pay £10/month to know your credit score at any time. Yeah right.

I then double-checked my bank account to see what they had charged me. Since starting my free trial on 26th March, I have been charged £7.38 on 28th March, refunded £7.38 on 3rd April, charged £7.38 on 17th April, and charged £16.61 on the 29th April. Quite how that equates to a 30-day free trial and a £7.50/month subscription I’m not sure.

Everybody wants to reduce customer churn as much as possible, but it should be achieved by having a great product and great incentives not to leave, not massive obstacles to prevent you leaving. I might very well have wanted to use eFax regularly in the future, since it does what it says it does – sends faxes – but after this experience I’d rather buy a fax machine (presuming they still exist).

As far as I can see, eFax’s Terms don’t even say that you have to phone them. Just that you have to contact a customer service representative. I’m pretty sure an email to customer service counts!

Customer Agreement   eFax

Give them their due, they’ve been quite responsive on Twitter and did apparently try to phone me today. Hopefully they’ll be able to sort this tomorrow without me having to ask my bank to start several chargebacks against them.

I’m not massively enamoured by the “Fax SaaS model”, so I wonder how eFax and HelloFax are doing. I guess they must be on to something if YC invested in them.

On the related topic of startup metrics, take a look at this beautiful metrics dashboard which works via integration with Stripe: https://buffer.baremetrics.io/dashboard Nice!

Update (2 May 2014): I spoke to eFax customer support (calling from Ireland) and I have to admit the guy was quite helpful. There was (I think) some kind of error on my account because the number I had faxed was 0800 it was more expensive than their normal free trial allows. Hopefully the extra charges will be refunded soon. As expected they offered me a deal to stay with them longer, but it was not a hard sell and I actually agreed to it. Why not have a fax number for £3.50/month?! So… I still think it’s pretty cr@ppy to force customers to cancel on the phone in this day-and-age – they probably could have got the same effect with automated emails to entice me to stay, but on the other hand it worked for them. So the lesson is – remove your online cancellation button kids!


3 Responses to “eFax: How not to reduce churn”

  1. Joseph May 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Joseph here, cofounder of HelloFax and HelloSign. Thanks for the writeup! We don’t fax to 0800 numbers yet – not sure what our timeline is on it. Sorry we couldn’t help you there.

    Either way, the main reason people have to fax these days is to sign documents, which is why our focus these days is on HelloSign: http://www.hellosign.com. Whenever you get a sec, give it a try. Much easier than printing, signing and scanning.


  2. Eric Lenington May 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    It’s a shame you had such a bad experience, but hopefully you’ll get everything sorted out without spending too much more time on it. One thing to consider if you have a future need for a “one off” fax is to use a local copy shop or postal center (in the US, every FedEx Office, UPS Store, etc., has a fax machine that you can pay a small fee to send the occasional fax; I assume something similar can be found in the UK?).


    PS – I do have to disagree with Joseph about signing documents being the main reason people use fax. While signing is one fairly common use-case, there are some significant industries that live and die by fax–none of which have anything to do with signatures or legal documents. I’ve personally been in the fax business for over 20 years, and it has certainly changed a lot during that time, but in spite of the fact that some people (like yourself, as you say) never or rarely send a fax, it’s a ubiquitous technology that’s here to stay for the foreseeable future–something like paper, I suppose (weren’t computers and email supposed to do away with that, too?)

  3. Geraldine Hill November 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    I am using Voicearray services which is good and cheap also.

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