I was just reading an article on BBC business about how retail sales are showing a 1.8% drop between December and January. It’s a worrying sign because it could be an indication that the economy is headed for another contraction just after having supposedly come out of a recession.
The thing about retail sales is that I’m not 100% sure how they capture online shopping, if they do so at all. The thing about recession is that people start looking about how they can save money on their purchase, and going online is one way to do it. All you have to do is fire up your laptop, get yourself a mobile satellite connection and get things cheaper online. That’s besides the fact that if you’re looking for alli weight loss pills, you can get them from other countries cheaper than you can get them in the UK. That’s not going to appear in the retail figures.
It’s with great pleasure that I can announce that we’ve managed to resolve both our claims for compensation with RyanAir and FlyBe. It does show that most companies do have procedures for dealing with the problems that arise from time to time. I do intend to follow up all this with a thank you letter. I think it always makes good sense to give feedback on this sort of event, because this does encourage this sort of repeat behaviour. If you treat companies that give you service like they’re the scum you get out of pond filters, then you can hardly expect to get a decent service, can you!
Interesting article in The Reg talking about how Electronic Arts (EA) decided to run a promotion giving away free fuel. The result: gridlock. From the article:
Another great moment in the annals of computer game PR stunts today – Electronic Arts caused gridlock this morning by offering £40 of free petrol to punters in Finsbury Park, north London.
In retrospect, it probably was to be expected, but do you think it really achieved their aims? Sure people are talking about the stunt and the company, but I have no idea what product they are promoting. I hope, at least, that it was a racing game or something related to petrol.
Still, amazing what can happen when you offer people something for free.
What do you think is a best way to disappoint a customer? I’m sure you can come up with a big list, but right there at the top is promising something and not delivering. I arrived at the airport this morning nice and early because I knew they had free Wifi here, fired up my laptop … and no Wifi. It wasn’t all bad though, because when I tried 30 mins later the network was there, so it could well have been undergoing maintenance, but it did set me thinking all about promises and expectations. In the meantime, FlyBe announced that the earlier Gatwick flight had been delayed because of “technical issues” and that the flight to Birmingham and the flight I was on were delayed because of an “aircraft change”. Now don’t get me wrong, I do expect operational problems to creep in from time to time, but delaying three flights (out of the three on the board with that airline) is shocking!
Anyway, way to my Wifi incident. The reason I was upset was because something was promised to me (by way of a hanging advert and prior experience) and was not delivered. If there had been no prior expectation, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It’s like like Wifi is so ubiquitous that you expect to find it everywhere (yet); so spending an hour waiting in a location without Wifi wouldn’t have been a problem for me. However, the expectation that something was supposed to be there and wasn’t was a totally different ball game.
I expect some industries are also harder to deal with than others. Airlines and trains in particular have a reputation for missing their schedules, but you can imagine that with all those moving parts, problem are bound to happen. I don’t envy companies who provide satellite internet services for example, as there are physical factors that can prevent proper delivery of their services. Wifi is another matter. Everyone with a wireless router at home will know that once it’s set up and running, it can run for months without needing any attention. That’s one reason why this morning was so “interesting”.
I came across a great post on Andrew Chen’s blog today that lists 25 reasons why customers stop using your product. The list originally came from the gaming community and Andrew has converted it to the online social media markets, but the points he outlines can apply to many other industries. Here are his reasons behing customer churn:
- First experience
- “I don’t get what this site is about”
- “This site is not for people like me”
- “The colors/design/icons look weird”
- “I already use X for that”
- “I don’t want to register”
- Soloing and single user value
- “I don’t have time to get involved in a site like this”
- “I’m lonely, not enough happens”
- “I forgot my password”
- “I don’t know how to talk or meet people”
- “I’ll just check on this account every couple months in case something happens”
- Encountering some friends(?)
- “People on this site are mean”
- “People I don’t know keep messaging me, WTF?”
- “I want my friends to use this, but none of them are sticking”
- “I’m getting too much mail from this site”
- “I only have 3 friends, this site is still boring”
- Hitting critical mass for social
- “This site takes up too much of my time”
- “Too many people are friending me that I only sorta know”
- “People are stalking me based on my pics and events!”
- “This Top Friends thing causes too much drama”
- “I’m getting flooded by e-mails for everything that anybody does”
- Becoming a site elder
- “The guys who run this site aren’t building feature X that we really need!”
- “The guys who run this site build feature Y that’s going to destroy this site!”
- “I’m doing a lot of work but I’m not getting anything for it”
- “I’m bored because there’s nothing left to do”
- “Newbies are fun to pick on :)” (wait, maybe that’s a benefit!)
Make sure you read the complete post, and the article that inspired it.
I was travelling through Luton yesterday and I couldn’t help noticing how both the airport and airlines use FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) to help them reduce costs and streamline their operations. Here are some examples I noticed:
- Regular announcements that if you try to pass security with more than 1 item of hand luggage, you may be sent back to checkin
- RyanAir claiming that if you go to the gate with more than your allotted allowance/over your weight limit/oversize cabin bag, you will be denied boarding and your ticket cancelled without refund
- RyanAir using a “free seating” mechanism (no allocated seats)
All this has the effect of architecting a control path allowing passengers to be herded more effectively, though it’s interesting to see that there are few mechanisms where, for example, the bag restrictions are controlled. The staff at the RyanAir gate weren’t RyanAir staff and were not checking people’s bags, but the FUD element meant that most passengers stuck to the rules. The “free seating” mechanism meant that everyone got to the gate early for fear of not finding a good seat.
While I’m perfectly happy with incentivising customers to achieve required behaviours, I’m not sure I’m so keen on FUD being used to achieve lower costs. How do you feel? Have you come across companies using the FUD factor on you recently?