22 January 2009 ~ 14 Comments

When the little things matter most

Transparency.
Speed.
“We” are smarter than “Me”.
Interconnectivity.

These are just a few of the staples of the digital world in which we now live, and each present opportunities for success, or potholes that must be navigated around as business owners & brands interact with their audience, prospects and customers.

Consider three brand interactions I had yesterday, and observe the different ways I shared my experience with others (prior to this very public broadcast of all three!)

The good, the bad and the ugly

As some of you may know, I’ve recently decided to take the plunge, and make an honest woman of the one whose been by my side this past decade and a half (note to female readers: yes, I’m aware, I took a VERY long time getting around to the question, and yes I’m VERY lucky she said yes!)  We’re having a destination wedding so we wanted to make sure we gave our guests as much planning time as possible, seeing as we’re the kind of friends who inconvenience you and make you come away on vacation with us 🙂  That meant getting the save the dates out uber-early (check) and then even getting the invitations out sooner than expected as well.  The invitation buying process wasn’t exactly what I’d call easy, and online was ZERO help.

[An aside, if you’re in that business, an area the web *should* dominate is in the education process of nurturing first time B&G’s from early through late in the buying process.  What types of things do they need to know, what does all the vernacular mean?  It seems the main value proposition most sites pitch is a cost savings, which while it’s nice, seeing as every other wedding vendor adds the “most important day of your life” tax, is only part of the equation and a useless one if you can’t figure out how to get the invitations you actually want!]

I digress.  We ended up ordering from William Arthur, via Papyrus.  Elka, our absolutely fantastic “coach” through the process at Papyrus told us not to worry when the first proof came back, and wasn’t exactly as we had planned.  We were reluctant to order a second proof, for fear of delaying the eventual shipment, but she recommended we did, just to make sure they’re exactly as we wanted.  The second proof came back perfect, and off to the printer they went.  Here’s where the two brands each went above and beyond, and provided a delightful experience worth writing about (seeing as we live in a pay-it-forward world):

  1. Elka called us to let us know she rushed the delivery, so we wouldn’t be delayed from our original planned mailing date.  Within a few days of her phone call, we received our order, much ahead of schedule.
  2. William Arthur, on the top of the box had included an envelope “to the bride & groom”.  When we opened it we found they had included 10 extra copies of everything we ordered.  There was a note that read, “While printing your order, we noticed a few extras came off the line, so we hope you enjoy them with our compliments”.  Whether they intentionally produce a few extras, or this really is the case, who knows, who cares.  The end result is, they know we have far greater use for the “extras” than the trash can does 🙂 and even keeps the groom from having to open every box of inserts to see what the finished product looks like (and getting them all dirty!)

I wonder, how many soon to be brides has Kelly now recommended Papyrus to?

Contrast that with the last remaining newspaper I’ll ever subscribe to in print form, the WSJ.  For the past few months I experimented with reading the Journal online only, like I do every other newspaper I still read (a dwindling number these days, sadly).  Ultimately I noted, I read more of the paper when I had it in print form than I did online only- I had a deeper engagement with it. Then in the mail (interesting to me that it wasn’t an email) I received a “professionals discount” with a very good rate for home delivery, and I decided it was time to resubscribe to print.

The subscription process was smooth & easy, not unexpected although many other sites (and far too many newspaper sites) fail here, and I was emailed a confirmation upon completion.  Imagine if you bought from Amazon, and your confirmation arrived, noting what books you had bought, how much you paid, what CC you used, etc… everything but the shipping/arrival date.  It would never happen, right?  Well, it happens every day with the WSJ!  Great to know my subscription was confirmed, but would you believe I had to write back, not once, but twice before giving up and assuming I’d simply have to wait and see if the subscription ever actually started!  Fail.

Ironically enough, missing subscriptions must happen with some frequency, as evidenced by the fact that yesterday (a few days AFTER I started receiving delivery) I got an email telling me I should have started receiving the paper already.

Where does this actually hurt?  Well, seeing as the newspaper business seems to be fighting the banking industry for the title “most likely to be OOB” these days, you’d think they want new subscribers?  I had the option to pass along my discount to other colleagues I thought would enjoy it.

I wonder, why haven’t I passed it along to anyone yet?

Then there’s the really ugly… and since I made a new years resolution to be more positive, and less snarky (it’s a two year old resolution!) I’ll change the name to protect the guilty!  Our CTO and resident coffee roaster John (unlike me, who is our resident lives-at-starbucks-far-too-much-guy) was scouring the ‘net looking for a new source of beans.  He knows we’ve talked to a few of the leading players in this space of late, and wanted to see what was out there.  After a little hunting, he found just product he was looking for at, er, um, Bob’s House of Beans 🙂  We thought it was a little odd the logo didn’t resolve properly, but chalked it up to Firefox/Mac issues, and kept plugging along.  Added beans to cart, check.  Entered credit card info, check.  Make purchase, fail.  Try as we might, the shopping cart and backend merchant account just wouldn’t connect, and after five minutes of reloading, we abandoned.  We tried once more later in the day (I assure you, purely as an experiment) and still couldn’t order.  If you’re an online retailer, no matter how large or small, you simply have to be able to calculate the cost of downtime, and require some proactive monitoring to alert you while the problem is ongoing.  In this case, the problem could have been on the bank side (I suspect not) but it’s really irellevant- the retailer lost the sale.

This is conversion 101, and yet, these are the mistakes which are still out there on the web.  If your site has some of these basic challenges, don’t get caught up in judgment (or let anyone else make you feel bad, myself included), it is what it is.  What’s important is taking the steps to correct, early & often. Get yourself on a program, and commit to continually improving your customer experience.  It’s the only way to grow in this day, age and economy!

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