Why Does LinkedIn Make It Impossible to Downgrade Your Subscription?

If you need to hire a bunch of people for your growing startup, it makes sense to get a premium subscription to LinkedIn for $20 up to $500 a month, right?

Despite the incredible value it delivers, the problem is that LinkedIn doesn't make it easy to downgrade your subscription once you've finished hiring, found a new job, etc. It's downright reminiscent of how Aol treated customers who wanted to cancel their dial-up service (Aol topped this two-year-old list of worst customer service).

The downgrade "help" page includes a link to a form that you have to fill out, but the downgrade doesn't happen instantly:

"To prevent unwanted charges and provide us with enough time to change your account to your new selection, please contact us at least 3-5 business days before your renewal date. Changes will be effective on the billing expiration date of your current premium subscription."

The company gets terrible reviews on the CustomerServiceScoreboard, with people complaining about lack of help with technical issues, unwanted LinkedIn emails and the inability to speak to a human being about anything.

We asked LinkedIn to comment on customer-service issues around subscription downgrades but have not received a response.

LinkedIn clearly makes more money when you set-and-forget your subscription. And busy people are likely do just that, especially when it takes precious time to get the company to stop charging you.

Just yesterday, LinkedIn, which went public in May, released its Q2 revenue figures: premium subscriptions accounted for $23.9M or 20% of its $121M in revenue. While paid subscriptions saw 60% growth compared to Q2 2010, its hiring product had 170% growth and made up nearly half of Q2 revenues.

In an interview published yesterday on Fortune, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said in regards to subscriptions revenue, "We also saw good momentum with premium subscriptions as a result of the overall lift [of membership] on the platform and some continued optimization of the existing product portfolio."

Perhaps Jeff should talk to customers like Hong Quan, who runs his own recruiting business Quantum Startups and says he can't do his job without LinkedIn. Hong told LAUNCH he loves the product, but he can't stand jumping through hoops every time he wants to downgrade his account during slower periods. He most recently downgraded his account about six months ago.

When Hong did manage to find a customer service number and get someone on the phone, he was asked why he wanted to downgrade and given another pitch.

"I've heard this before, I've been using [LinkedIn] for five years, I know what I'm doing, he says. "I know they have to go through the call scripts and keep the person on the plan. But if I've gotten your number though work of my own, just let me change it."

Brian Rothenberg of auction site SkillSlate.com signed up for a premium account when he needed to hire people. After making the final hire in May, he told LAUNCH, he logged in to his account to downgrade and found "literally zero way to do so."

"With most subscription billing services, there's generally just a toggle from paid to free, and that doesn't exist," Brian says.

He finally emailed LinkedIn's customer support team, which responded the same day -- but his subscription did not officially end until eight days later (see screenshot below).

"I have a lot of friends who work there, some of them are early employees," says Brian. "I have a favorable opinion of LinkedIn, but this just left a bad baste in my mouth."

Larry Kooper, a software developer in New York, asked LinkedIn by email to get rid of an account set up with his work email address -- an account he did not create. The response he received was "not very helpful," he says.

Larry continues to receive connection requests on that account from people he does not know. "I still like LinkedIn, I would just like them to get rid of this account."