Entries Tagged as 'Customer Service'

What Netflix Needs To Do To Progress Further

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

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I have both supported, and spoke highly of Netflix.  I’ve also ripped them to shreds when I found their business decisions to be absolutely horrible, and pulled my money as an investor when it started to do things that was not along this side of visionary.  So with the latest announcement of canning the split business scenario, I thought… maybe they’re finally understanding again.  Regardless, Reed Hastings is on the right track although his means to the end was not exactly the best of methods.   So this is what I propose that he starts doing if he’s indeed still pushing for settling on Netflix being a streaming business.

  1. Re-position internal organizations
    Internally, you’ll start splitting your company into two divisions.  One is DVD, one is streaming.  Both would have online teams that work together, but ultimately your sales, metrics, and growth will be separated out.   Timeline? 1-2 years.  I have yet to participate in a major company-wide re-organization that has never taken at least 12-18 months.
  2. Customer service needs to get back on par
    Netflix as a company took their reputation and basically threw it out the window.  That’s a lot of reputation when you consider that it was chucked in three months and the company has been around since 1997.   Get back to doing what you were doing best, which was handling customer service well and providing for those that bring you revenue.   Don’t forget that while people are just means to end, your company is also in the service business.  So service.
  3. Transparency
    I am still amazed that there are people out there that don’t understand that the best online businesses are the ones that have such deep linked inner-workings that have absolutely no ties to what the customer interacts with and how it’s done.  Amazon is a great example of this.  From a consumer standpoint, their website is a shopping area and 2-days later, a product arrives.  But the amount of logistics that went into making all of that happen behind the scenes?  Vast.  AND really none of the consumer’s business.  The fact is that all of this and expansions is made possible because of transparency.  With the Qwikster model, there was absolutely no transparency, and you took a brand and threw it out the window.  Once a business operates in a transparent function, it makes changing the consumer end very simple.  You could sell the online division, or dvd rental without batting an eye since the buyers can see that it can both operate seamlessly or by itself.  That makes your company all the more attractive.
  4. Improve Online UX
    So far, Netflix keeps changing up their UX, but their applications lag behind sometimes and they don’t really improve.  For example, they took away the DVD queues on the iPad app, but that’s something that I want to have access to when I use your “services”.  Which is what I pay for.   I don’t just pay for half of it so don’t just show me half.   That sort of interfacing is an important aspect of both how the consumer feels about your services and how easy it is to work.
  5. Improve streaming
    With more and more content, the price increase obviously is going back into the system. But, I have still yet to see a way to choose different language tracks in foreign films.  I also have yet to see DVD previews and all sorts of other things that could be on a streaming service.  This needs to improve if you wish people to take your streaming business model seriously.
  6. Quit thinking your customers are complete idiots
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the last three months should be a complete eye-opener.  You treated your customers as complete dolts, and then expected them to understand the business and why it was needed.  Then you followed up the bad scenario with another completely terrible scenario.  What may be a good business decision still has to be sold to the shareholders just like any other political message.  Note that the best politicians are great salesmen.   That’s because they can sell you a dream that in reality is a piece of rock.  In the same manner, you need to sell your business models instead of just throwing it out and letting the pieces land where they may.
Customers of services and products do their talking with their feet.  And at the end of the day, especially in bad economics, realize that your product or service is an entertainment expense, not a necessity.   This in itself is a consideration of how you set up and execute the business.   When you’re finished with understanding that (of which I’m not sure what happened in the last three months that you forgot when you remembered the last decade), you’ll be able to continue down the same road that you’ve been trying to go down.  Only then, will you have all the pieces in place to pull off what you were trying to accomplish here in 2011.
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Open Letter to Netflix: Why I Sold Netflix and Support Them No Longer As a Shareholder

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun... So as of opening bell, I’ll probably no longer be a shareholder of Netflix.   It’s been a good run, but in my opinion, Reed Hastings has finally gone off the deep end when it comes to leading his company.  It’s one thing to make one mistake.  But to follow it up with an entirely different one is complete corporate suicide.

Let’s first preface this with the fact that I’ve been supporting the business since June of 2003. Yes, I have had my hands in this awesome business due to the fact that they just knew what the hell the customer wanted and provided it. And it rocked. Asian films, anime, you name it, they had it. And their customer service was completely and utterly awesome. The first time they had credited me for something that I didn’t even expect to happen. And this continued on for years whenever THEY made a mistake. This is how you run a company.

Then the price hike came. There have been others, but older customers always got grandfathered in under their old plan. Not with this hike though. No, this one had no explanation, no reasoning, just… hey, we’re going to up the price because we feel that streaming is just as good as DVD distribution. I’ll say that using their streaming, it’s as good as 2003 Netflix but not as good as current, especially the new releases. Regardless, the price was the same for streaming as it was for DVDs. Big mistake number one.

So Sunday night, Reed Hastings committed big mistake number two. He wrote all of this apologetic stuff that no one really cares about since their stock price tumbled due to subscriber loss and he stopped short of making amends for the price hike. Everything he said was true, as far as the reasoning for the price hikes, but he didn’t do what every other customer service driven company does. He didn’t appease the customers. Instead, he split the company in two so that Qwikster will be the DVD distribution (owned by Netflix still) and Netflix will concentrate on streaming only.

The key screw up here? CUSTOMER usability. If you’re getting into a streaming only business, that’s fine. But one key thing about user experience in the Internet world is interoperability behind the scenes. Believe me, I deal with it every day with my own accounting software company. The key to everything is always the fact that the customer should NEVER… EVER… have to sign into multiple items, or have to do a two stop shop, just because you think it’s a brilliant move. Everything should be integrated on the forefront and the operations behind the scenes are split into two entities. I don’t care how you do it, via API, or not, but two different billings and sites will kill you if people looked to your integrated area for use before. Operationally, I can understand the split. But what has been reported is that it’s going to be two different sites.

I’m sorry, buddy, but that was the last straw. Currently I’m looking to see if that invested money can be put to good use in Coinstar owned Redbox. Maybe some other internet IPO will come along and we’ll take a look at that. But as a long time customer, and supporter, the moves being made are going to placate your company for months to come. You said that you “slid into arrogance based upon past success” but finally saw the light. I hate to break it to you but the rest of your email reminded me of my mother when I was a child whom told me what I wanted to hear and said that I had a choice in the matter, but at the very end, threw in an argument that completely contradicted the entire hour of time she had spent. So, you’re not really thinking about us, are you? You’re thinking about how you can get us, and Wall Street off your back about all of this. And I’m telling you that customer service and Wall Street go hand in hand. Oh well, maybe you’ll see the light. Maybe you’ll understand finally that there were a number of things at play that propelled Netflix into stardom and kept it there. It wasn’t the streaming idea, nor DVD releases. It was the fact that you guys did it seamlessly and had awesome service. Put those two things in any business, and they’ll still be rock solid. Anyhow, if you ever want to change things up, just look me up.

WalMart Does Due Diligence With Gift Cards Online

While I know this is a way to protect themselves from fraud, I love it when corporations actually call the billing phone number in the billing information to make sure that a large purchase is indeed made by an individual. Since you never know if you’re going to be taken for a ride by an ID thief.

So I got a call a while back on a gift card I had purchased just to make sure that it was going to the right place and it was a purchase I made. Hey, that’s great! I appreciate that since last thing you want to know is that you’ve been had and the purchase actually went through. I love this about Discover, and I love it about WalMart. Now Bank of America could take a hint here in this department. Last I checked, they locked my credit limit but it’s rather annoying when a bank increases your limit automatically and continue to do it when you tell them to stop. Fortunately, you can put locks in place on those types of things like limits.

Discover Bank Needs Work Still

discover-bank Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a big supporter of Discover Card. Out of all of the credit card companies, they’re one of the few that has never done me wrong and has always had great customer service when I needed it. In fact, it’s one of the few out there that looked after my well being and has a rewards program that is definitely a way to promote why you should be using it.

So when they started a promotion with their Discover Bank, I decided to jump on it. A couple things struck me right off and whomever the product manager of Discover Bank should really take heed to this since it doesn’t align itself well considering their online system for the card services is up-to-par with today’s standards of web services.

  • Login and Password from forms – When you ask for personal information from a user, be sure to get every single bit of it so that you can populate logins and such. Nothing from that rewards program notified you that you also had to register for an online system so while you could open an account right away and fund it, you couldn’t get in to check on it because someone forgot to add it into the forms.

    In fact, I had to call the customer service number to have someone walk through why I didn’t have a login. The lady on the other end was very nice although this type of online form issue shouldn’t happen if you have a QA department. You always have someone once-over it a couple times in the place of a brand new user to see what they can break and never make assumptions. Assuming that people won’t click on something is the first no-no in QA testing.

  • https://global1.onlinebank.com – Come on now. URL that isn’t masked or loaded directly? This tells me that not only is the software outsourced, but it’s not on the same level as the web services from card side. For whatever you’re paying ORCC, you should be able to brand it directly. Even on the bottom of the interface itself, has a copyright notice from Online Resourcing Corporation. There is also a lot of web side that needs work but that’s another thing altogether. But overall, a red flag goes up as a consumer when suddenly you go from discoverbank.com to “onlinebank.com”.
  • No EV-SSL? – This is another web side thing that someone should have flagged. While it’s not a huge deal in the security matters, most banking institutions actually do use it to provide more of a peace-of-mind for their customers. I will however say that I did due diligence and found that Discover Card web side also doesn’t use EV-SSL.
  • link checking – Not all of the links on the front page work (check the ones on the footer). I’m not certain if they go to old domains that used to be owned by Discover, or whatever, but there are definitely links that point to nonexistent things. Due diligence again on Discover Card side of it and the link itself actually did exist.

I will say that Discover Card actually sets itself up with these issues. I wouldn’t have thought twice with another card services since I’ve used a fair amount of them and Discover is the only one that always seems to improve their online presence and has an awesome job of marketing their product lines. In fact, I personally probably wouldn’t have used the Discover Bank in seeing the things that I saw above if it wasn’t for the fact that Discover was also marketing their banking line on their card services.

In the future, I would love to see a merger of the two systems. I know that currently since the banking system is outsourced, it’s going to be a while considering I’ve done my fair share of online SaaS products. But from a consumer standpoint, some of the issues above can be fixed rather easily that will in fact increase customer peace-of-mind. Is this something that Discover wishes? I’m sure it is considering they’ve always stood out on that front in my eyes.

Netflix Customer Service Wows Me Again


What can I say. Netflixicon continues to wow me with their automated customer service. Now, granted, this could be because I’ve been with them since … well, forever. In any case, it never ceases to amaze me that they just send me extra movies, or gifts (in the form of refunds) because of something that they mishandled or just think that it’s taking too long for the turn-around. In fact, I think this is the first time that their customer service has sent me an extra DVD due to the fact that it would take a bit for it to get here.

Don’t ask me why, but it makes me happy to support a company that actually thinks about the fact that I’m not made of money, and there are little things you can do that can make a person happy with your service. This is one of them. Definitely will have to take a page from their customer service book and apply it in my own accounting software business.

Verizon CSRs Needs Work On Emergency Service

A man passes by a Verizon Wireless store June ...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Verizon seems to have some issues with training their CSRs to respond correctly. Having worked in telecommunications for over a decade, I can say that there are procedures that are enacted in emergency situations that DO NOT require an overdue bill to be paid even though in this situation, unfortunately, it had happened.

In fact, there is specifics to what telecommunications personnel have to abide by when it comes to emergency protocol. Whether or not it’s a CSR training issue or perhaps something that was screwed up in the communications between the emergency personnel and call center, I don’t know. But I found this article to be thrown out there without understanding how the process works.

Unfortunately, my ties with Verizon Wireless from a vendor side has been a long time and they might have changed how it works internally. But it still goes to show that someone out there needs the right training because the procedures are there that overrule any “unpaid bills”.

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Why Niche Magazine Subscriptions Aren’t Worth It

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Most people have subscribed to some sort of magazine in their lifetime. I mean any sort of magazine.

But I can tell you right now that the journalism industry is doing so poorly that it’s not even worthwhile to buy these subscriptions no matter what sort of deal you’re getting. Why? The chance of that niche disappearing is very likely and all you’ll end up with is holding the empty bag.

In this household, we’ve already had two different magazine subscriptions disappear from under our noses in the span of about two years. Just one day, you’re thinking that it’s been a while since you’ve had the last subscription. Then you go on the Internet and find out that the company has folded or the publisher just refuses to put out another copy and laid all of the writers off. What really drives me nuts is the fact that they don’t even have the courtesy to at least send a bulk mailing postcard to all of their subscribers to tell them that they basically are folding one of their publications. Just one day:


Magazine disappeared. I think the nice thing between this and the newspaper industry is that at least they’ll tell you if they’re going down. Flames and all. Common courtesy and it really helps the subscriber to take the side of the struggling industry instead of getting them annoyed with the publishing corporation.

So if you run a magazine business, regardless of how successful you are, perhaps it’s time to budget out some money for postcards and stamps. Just in case there comes a time that you have to turn the lock and shut the door for the last time. Because remember that customer service is still your business and no matter where you’re going, if you want your loyal followers to come with you, don’t slap them in the face with you failed current venture.

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Eating your own dog food

There are many varieties of commercial dog foo...

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In the world of software development, there’s a term called “eating one’s own dog food” that should mean something to anyone that has ever had a product to sell. Basically, the meaning behind it is that one should always use their own product. There are not only many benefits to do so, but it also gives you multiple perspectives on where the product cycle should go and what kind of changes should be made.
In my own case, this definitely can be applied to Merchant’s Mirror. We not only use it for our own books, but I have paid accounts for other businesses where I do my accounting. This gives me something special that many of the other people that are actually selling their products do not have. It gives me the perspective of the customer. So I also understand the joys and frustrations coming from those of my clientele which allows me to connect on a totally different level.
The biggest achievement here is not the fact that you could perhaps fix bugs before the public finds them. If that’s your goal, then that’s not a very good one (although fixing bugs is actually a good thing). Your priority should be to figure out what your customer wants and in being both your consumer base and production team, you gain knowledge of why your customer operates in the certain way that they would and why they would want a feature that you could have deemed useless otherwise.
Finding this out is not only beneficial to all, but it builds a relationship that you can’t counter. Don’t forget the one major thing in the world of business. If you have the greatest product in the world, and no one to use it, then it might as well be a lousy product. That developer and customer relationship is crucial for any business to be successful.

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Starbucks going Gold

starbucksgold.jpg Check it out. It’s secret news from Brad Stevens, Starbucks Customer Relations head honcho.
Apparently they’ve had some good success with the Starbucks Rewards so they’re creating another level to it, calling it the Starbucks Gold program. For an annual fee of $25USD, you’ll get:

  • 10% off most purchases in participating U.S. Starbucks stores
  • A free drink when you purchase your Starbucks Gold Card in a Starbucks store
  • The option to pay for purchases any way you like
  • A special Gold Card that identifies you as a member of this group

This basically means that to break even on this program, you have to spend at least $250USD a year on Starbucks. At about $4USD a drink, that’s 62.5 drinks a year, which equates to a little over five drinks a month. Not bad. So if you’re a serious coffee drinker and have a latte more than once a week, this program will definitely save you a bit in the long run. I assume that you still get all those free flavors and such, but I don’t know for sure. And don’t bother asking your barista. They probably don’t even know about this yet.
Why would I say such a thing? Brad said so. So wait until next month. When we’re all privy to the new program. You know what they say… employees are always the last to know.

1-800-flowers.com service is flower powered

18flogo2.gif I have to say that there are some services that have fantastic service.
A couple days ago, I had called 1-800-flowers since something had been bugging me. About two weeks ago, I had bought a bouquet of flowers. Now the flowers that came didn’t look like the ones in the picture, but I thought nothing of it. I did find it strange however since I thought I had purchased a vase with it but it didn’t come with one.
So I got in touch with Kim, from the Oklahoma call center. I have to say that speaking to this lady was a pleasure since she was cheerful and very apologetic. I have to believe that even if I was an irate customer, that she would have defused the situation with the tone of her voice, and how she responded. First, it was with my original order that I had wanted to pick but didn’t since the website was messed up. After chatting about it a little bit, she could recreate the issue with her manager and told me that a ticket was opened with the IT department to have it fixed and to try back in a couple days. Needless to say, that particular product actually was fixed later that evening when I tested it again just to see.
Then came my vase question. The order had gone through a couple weeks now and the flowers were dead and gone, but I was just curious to know if i did indeed purchase a vase or not. I told her nothing came, and she didn’t even question it and instead apologized and refunded my money. Wow. I have to say, that’s indeed superb service.
I even asked her about the point system since it was something that they recently implemented and she laughed and told me that she thought they expired in a year, even though I read that they expired in 90 days. She gave me a number to VIP customer support (actually the one she had listed to Petal Points that apparently goes to VIP support) and I confirmed the 90 days.
I have to say that I have never once had a problem with any of my calls into 1-800-flowers.com and each of them have been very nice and friendly and could fix whatever problem I was having or actually told me if they didn’t know. Friendly people that can laugh over the phone usually helps diffuse many angry customers (of which are usually the ones that call in). I’m glad that the somewhat premium that you pay with them not only shows up in the products, but also shows in the staff they employ.