eHarmony Strikes a Bad Chord!

This is a bit of an intermissionary gripe session with a lesson attached for all those managing customer dialog and privacy.

I think I have grown to personally dislike Dr. Neil Clark Warren. He's the founder and public face of eHarmony.com. Because of this, can’t help but personally hold him responsible for six months of harassment from his company.

Out of curiosity, I signed up for a free eHarmony trial on May 15, 2005. I ended up canceling it after just a few days -- It just wasn't my thing. Unfortunately, eHarmony not only screwed up my account, I've had SIX MONTHS of interaction trying to get off their mailing list, yet they continue to spam me with unsolicited email!

Many of you read my previous post about spam problems with Ancestry.com and eHarmony. I promised to keep you informed, and the comments attached to the post reveal the outcome of the Ancestry.com issue.

Sadly, with eHarmony, things have gotten worse. After months, it seems pretty clear that the operational infrastructure in place for managing both privacy and customer inquiries at eHarmony is insufficient and unharmonious!

From a customer experience perspective, this is a great case study on how not to manage customer relationships. Here's a rundown of my ridiculous eHarmony experience:

5/12 I signed up for a free trial (this yielded more than six emails in five days! Very annoying!)

5/19 I requested cancellation via email

5/19 Got an automated response confirming receipt of my cancellation request

5/19 Got a personal response to cancellation request - telling me to call in to cancel.

5/19 I phoned in and got voicemail - The office was closed for a meeting

5/20 I phoned again. Got voicemail - The system was down for maintenance, and it was a Friday - and they were closed on the weekend. My seven day trial was ending and I didn't want to be charged.

5/20 I emailed my demand for cancellation again and warned them not to charge me. I also reiterated that I didn't want any future email from them. I had previously gone into my profile and cancelled all opt-ins.

Note: They didn't cancel my account and charged me $49.95 anyway.

5/26 Got a personal email from Cecelia at eHarmony confirming the cancellation of my account and subscriptions, and confirming issuance of a $49.95 refund.

Note: I thought the saga had ended... but...

6/9 Got a renewal reminder notice from eHarmony, reminding me that my account was expiring

6/9 I sent an inquiry asking why they asked me to renew my cancelled membership. I also reminded them that I had opted out on several occasions and should not be getting any email from eHarmony.

6/9 Got an automated response confirming receipt of my email

6/13 Got a personal email response from Louise saying eHarmony had cancelled account and all subscriptions

6/25 Got an eHarmony monthly Newsletter

6/25 I sent another email complaning about spam and warning them of Can Spam violation. Got no response to this email although there was no bounce when I sent it.

6/27 Got an email requesting my feedback about eHarmony (!?)

6/27 I sent some very harshly worded feedback complaining about their violation of the Can Spam act.

6/29 Got an automated Response from eHarmony confirming receipt of my email

6/30 Got an email from Armando at eharmony assuring me eHarmony has taken me off all mailing lists.

Early July - another email newsletter came. I angrily deleted it.

7/21 Another email Promotion Arrived: Win a Cruise for eHarmony's Couple of the Year - saved this one by mistake.

Mid August - Another Newsletter arrived. I angrily deleted this, too.

9/19 Another eharmony Newsletter.

9/25 Another Offer: Start Communicating Today: 3 for the price of 1!

10/20 Another eHarmony Newsletter

11/16 I sent eHarmony a letter warning them of legal action, with a complete rundown of my contact history. The title was "Warning of Legal Action"

11/16 Got an automated Response from eHarmony confirming receipt of my email.

11/17 Got a personal letter from eHarmony (Viviana) telling me that unfortunately, they could not extract my photos for attachment to my profile. (????)

11/17 I sent an even angrier letter back, copying everyone possible. Also filed a complaint with the FTC and TrustE.

It's clear that eHarmony has invested a lot into the wording of their stock responses. Lord knows I've read enough of them! Unfortunately, it's also clear that their processes for managing customer inquiries are insufficient. It's also very clear that they have a flawed infrastructure for managing consumer opt-out, which makes me question the solidity of their privacy promise, as well.

According to Federal Can Spam legislation, eHarmony is obligated to take me off all mail lists within 10 days of my request. This means that after 5/29/2005, they should have stopped bugging me. This was approximately six months ago, minus two weeks. eHarmony - consider this article my anniversary gift.

The lesson is this: Fluffy words and promises can't make up for ridiculously flawed experience. You must deliver! It's impossible to deliver if your infrastructure is a mess! Drop the ball once and you may be forgiven. Drop the ball twice and you'll probably lose your customer. Drop the ball repeatedly and you may lose more than one customer as your pattern is established. You may also violate state or federal law and run the risk of being sued.

If any of you have had problems with eHarmony please share your stories with me! I will keep you posted on the continuing saga. :-P I have conducted a bit of research on eHarmony and have discovered a NUMBER of sites that catalog customer experience concerns and complaints - many of which will surprise you! Check out these links to read for yourself!

11 comments:

LivePath said...

I got a response from eHarmony, which is very similar to the other FOUR responses I've gotten over the last six months. My confidence that eHarmony will successfully manage my opt-out in the future is relatively low - do you blame me?

----------
Dear Leigh,

Thank you for your recent communication to eHarmony.com. I've been forwarded the information to review and want to let you know that I'm incredibly sorry that your messages were so badly handled on our end of things.

I want to assure you that your account has been closed, the email address has been removed from our system and I've manually removed it from our email fulfillment program. What I can't control is whether or not there are any messages that are already spooled for delivery to you.

Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do for you. Thank you for adding all of the previous correspondence. It should be extremely helpful for our own in-house training and review processes.

I wish you the best of days.

Sincerely,

(Name Withheld)
Manager of Customer Relations
eHarmony Customer Care

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd be interested in this comment from another site....

I just tried to remove my credit card number from my eharmony account to be *certain* they would not charge me when my time ended and it won't let me! It says I *must* have a card number listed!! Why is that Mr. Christian values dude? I paid already- I am NOT going to sign up for another month -why do you have the right to force me to have a card number there? Boy o boy I hope someone in the media gets on this story and prints a real article about them to warn the public.

- Sandy

artsas22@hotmail.com said...

The main reason I am posting is tell folks how I fought eHarmony back, and won. So here's my story.

I first signed up for eHarmony in Sept 2003, and met a lady I dated for 4 months. I let the membership expire, and I made sure to choose DO NOT RENEW, and DO SEND ME MATCHES, and DO NOT SEND ME E-mail. Make sure you do that (I'm big on not getting junk mail, so I watch this everywhere).

Then in May 2004, I signed up again, thinking I could do the 7 day trial. When I tried to cancel a few days later, they refused, saying it only applied to new customers. At the time (they have since changed their website), they would not budge. So I printed copies of their website and their promo E-mails. Then I disputed the charge on my credit card, claiming fraudulent billing. Then I sent the pictures of the screen shots, with a letter, to my credit card company. My credit card company sided with ME, and I got my money back. I also posted about this on consumeraffairs.com

If you are having trouble cancelling your eHarmony membership, I encourage you to call your credit card company ASAP. They are usually more than happy to help. If enough people call, they will jump on eHarmony.

In May 2005, I signed up again with eHarmony. This time I noticed that their 7 day offer was for new customers only. I stayed for a little while, met a few people, and then left. I didn't have any problems this time...but then again, I did what they wanted.

I write a lot of complaint letters when I'm unhappy with service, thanks to a great book by Patricia Westheimer I probably get $500 back per year. I also write a lot of compliment letters too. If more people write complaint letters, and more people post on places like epionions and consumeraffairs.com, we can keep these businesses honest.

Anonymous said...

My main issue with these dating sites is that if you don't get a response from someone you e-mailed, or showed interst in, you aren't sure if it is because they aren't interested, or they are not a paying member. Hmmm... maybe what they should do is e-mail the interested party and say, "This person cannot reply to your interest at this time." Of course, then they would be busted on how many ppl hang out and don't feel it is worth the money. I guess if they see that you are interested, and feel your pic and profile are 'worth' the money, they'll pay?


For the last week, I have been trying to log on to EH, and I end up with Internet Explorer Cannot Display Website message. Very annoying! Is the website under construction? What a pain all of this is!

Rick Shiels said...

I have much the same complaint as others. Eharmony terminated my account with rude letters to my contacts saying I had been "removed" and Closing my in-progress correspondence with a number of people. Really embarrassing and unprofessional. No explanation. Steer clear.

Anonymous said...

Eharmony is a thieving organization in my opinion. I paid to join, foolishly, as I found it useless, then wrote to tell them I withdrew a month or so later. They recently stole more money from my credit card and started sending 'matches' again. I wrote again, more than once, telling them not to steal my money, and they have anyway. I would like to see them suffer monetarily for such antics.

Anonymous said...

it is 2007 and they are still doing bad things like charging your paypal account when you have stopped matches and billing you after they have charged your paypal account and they offer no refunds...no apologies...screw you.

Anonymous said...

I cancelled my Eharmony membership OVER ONE YEAR AGO and STILL cannot stop receiving emails and matches. I've written to customer service repeatedly and requested my profile be taken down, but even now -- a year later -- I get emails indicating I have messages from various interested dudes. Flattering yes, but HELLO?????!!!! I'VE TOLD THEM TO TAKE ME OFF THE SITE! I'm totally with you -- There's no one steering that boat; Obviously their entire budget is devoted to advertising.

Steven said...

Eharmony, besides all of the problems with billing etc, has other problems as well. Their matching stinks. They send you matches that are obviously fake, one of them even admitted to working for Eharmony.

I never even got one single date from eharmony, forget anything else. I would never use their service again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for speaking up and doing something about this company.

I've been trying to cancell my memebership and at the very least NOT RENEW IT. But they went and charged another year to my account without my authorization!
I couldn't believe it and have been unsucessful at getting them reverse the charges. I've got to call their Customer Service--an 800 # which I'm happy to have found though the many dissatisfied customers that have posted complaints on the internet.

I didn't find 1 match that I thought possible. I didn't want a Baptist, bible toting "Christian" man but that's what I got a lot of; retired military, right-wing, Christians. That is the complete opposite of who I am.

Susan said...

Yet another e-Harmony customer service horror story.

While my experience on e-Harmony was generally positive, when their service was no longer needed, I cancelled my membership--a full month before it was due to renew.

They renewed my account anyway. I responded within hours of the billing notification and received no response. Nearly a month passed, in which I sent several emails, copying every customer service email address I could find. Still no reply--not even an auto-response acknowledging receipt of my emails.

Last week, I began calling, asking for incident numbers and sending follow-up emails to the addresses I was told would certainly elicit a response in no more than 24-48 hours. Still, not even an auto-response or call follow-up email.

Today, I spent nearly an hour and a half on the phone with them and, had I not known my way around call center lingo and corporate rules & protocol, would have certainly given up.

When I finally insisted that I would not allow someone to return my call and that I would not hang up until I spoke with a live human being with the authority to refund my money, I was actually pressured to give the name and location of the man I am dating, before they could be authorized to refund my money. I didn't. I received my refund anyway.

In this day and age, a company of this size certainly has the ability to handle things more smoothly, if they so choose. From the similar accounts I have found all over the web, I am convinced that eHarmony is in the business of fraudulent billing practices and at best, attempting to wear down those who choose to complain in the effort to increase margins and make an extra buck.

Post a Comment

POST HISTORY

RECENT TWEETS

RECENT COMMENTS

SEARCH

CONNECT

TwitterLinkedInYouTubePosterousFacebook G+

Live Path Experience Architect Feed

LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

NEW! FEATURED IN

NEW!  FEATURED IN
The Customer Experience Edge

CO-AUTHOR OF

CO-AUTHOR OF
Age of Conversation 3 - Get yours now in hardcover, paperback and for the Kindle.

CONTRIBUTOR TO

CONTRIBUTOR TO
Web Redesign: Workflow that Works