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Life and times of a small biz: what's a fax number worth to me?
September 24th, 2010 by Nancy

fax machineA couple months ago I eliminated my fax number.

Although I wasn’t going out of my way to get rid of it, I am now no longer reachable by fax.

I guess it isn’t accurate to say I eliminated my fax number.  Actually, it was taken from me.  Here’s what happened:

I subscribed to a service called eFax that assigned a telephone number to me that served as my “fax” number.  If someone wanted to send something to me, they’d dial that number then eFax would email me a digital file (like, though not, a pdf) of the sent pages, and I’d be good to go.  Best of all, it was free, simple, and seemed a good environmental choice – no trees were killed in the conveyance of information to me.  eFax did offer several other “premium” plans that came with a monthly price tag, but since I’d receive maybe one fax every other month, the free option was absolutely sufficient for my needs.

Recently, I worked with a customer that apparently didn’t have my email address, but did have my fax number, so he sent me a handful of faxes – about six in all, each about three or four pages in length.

What I didn’t realize (or more likely since I’d had this service for a couple years, what I didn’t remember) was that if I sent or received more than 20 pages in a single month I’d not qualify for eFax’s free service any longer.

So I was a bit surprised to get a notice from eFax stating that because of my recent activity I no longer qualified for the free option and in order to continue using their service I’d have to upgrade to the premium plan.

SO – Does $17 a month seem a bit steep for a biz to pay for a service that it uses maybe 6 times a year? To send or receive information that can also be conveyed – in better form – via email?  Which, ironically, became my only choice not because I sent a bunch of faxes, but because someone else sent just barely 20 pages in a 30 day period?

‘Seemed that way to me, but I wanted to find out if eFax felt the same way.  I called them several times, and was given the same answer several times – in order to keep my fax number I had to cough up $16.95 a month.

After mulling it over, I realized that (even though it feels otherwise) THIS WAS NOT BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.  The eFax phone people were cordial, honest, and straightforward. The 20 page limit was there in my original plan, I exceeded my free limit, and I was shown the door.

THIS IS ONLY A REALLY LOUSY BUSINESS MODEL.

The fax number just sat there in my signature block, quiet and safe and staid: address, phone, fax, email, website.  It wasn’t really doing anything except adding one more line to the block, and maybe adding the perception of one more nugget of legitimacy to my operation here: “see? I’m a REAL biz – I have a fax number.”  Now that it’s gone, though, I realize it won’t be missed.  While I feel for the people that have my contact information but don’t know the fax number isn’t live anymore (although so few of them fax anything I’m not losing any sleep over it).

But as a small biz owner, I am somewhat more concerned to think that eFax considers this a viable way to do business. Yeah, they weren’t making any money off me, so why should they care?  Here’s why:

They hasten the demise of their own services by kicking me out.  They weren’t losing any money on me either, but they did lose a whole lot of goodwill.

I hear it said that bad customer service stories are repeated nine times by the “victim”.  I don’t want that kind of storytelling about Lunchsense, ever.

It’s actually not been that big of a hassle to get my fax number off my “collateral” (that’d be the name for all the paper stuff that has my biz information on it), as most of it I print on-demand – for example, I have the file with the letterhead, and when I need to write a letter, I write it and print it (or, more often, email it).  Invoices, packing slips, carton inserts, whatever – most of it either didn’t have the fax number to begin with or I only print in small quantities.

I can also email printer scans for someone who has to have my signature, so the ONLY THING I’m now left without is the ability to receive a fax.  It is no significant loss, frankly.

Please: do you have a similar story?  If you were me, what would you have done?

Next week: a customer service tale that I strive to emulate.


2 Responses  
Nancy’s Yogurt: what customer service should strive to be | Lunchsense writes:
October 20th, 2010 at 9:38 am

[...] wrote a few weeks back about how and why I gave up my fax number, and mentioned that I’d have a nice customer service story as a follow-up.  Here it [...]

20% off everything at Lunchsense! | Lunchsense writes:
October 25th, 2010 at 9:59 pm

[...] – the last two years have been brutal to most small businesses – but I’m pleased to say Lunchsense is beating the odds and actually growing, slowly but surely.  It’s a lot more work spreading the [...]

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