16 Dec

The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained – NYTimes.com

Last spring, I taught a class at the Columbia Business School called “What Makes a Hit a Hit—and a Flop a Flop.” I focused on consumer-tech success stories and disasters.

I distinctly remember the day I focused on products that were rushed to market when they were full of bugs — and the company knew it (can you say “BlackBerry Storm?”). I sagely told my class full of twentysomethings that I was proud to talk to them now, when they were young and impressionable — that I hoped I could instill some sense of Doing What’s Right before they became corrupted by the corporate world.

But it was too late.

To my astonishment, hands shot up all over the room. These budding chief executives wound up telling me, politely, that I was wrong. That there’s a solid business case for shipping half-finished software. “You get the revenue flowing,” one young lady told me. “You don’t want to let your investors down, right? You can always fix the software later.”

You can always fix the software later. Wow.

That’s right. Use your customers as beta testers. Don’t worry about burning them. Don’t worry about souring them on your company name forever. There will always be more customers where those came from, right?

That “ignore the customer” approach hasn’t worked out so well for Hewlett-Packard, Netflix and Cisco. All three suffered enormous public black eyes. All three looked like they had no idea what they were doing.

Maybe all of those M.B.A.’s pouring into the workplace know something we don’t. Maybe there’s actually a shrewd master plan that the common folk can’t even fathom.

But maybe, too, there’s a solid business case to be made for factoring public reaction and the customer’s interest into big business decisions. And maybe, just maybe, that idea will become other C.E.O.s’ 2011 New Year’s resolution.

via NYTimes.com – The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained. I’m not certain if business school teach that only thing matters is the profit you can make or if it is the result of something else. However, business schools seem to create an environment that rewards not making happy customers, not doing the ethical thing, not doing the thing that protects the environment down the road. One of the ways in which Apple succeeds is by releasing products when they are fully finished and not half-baked.

30 Sep

ZDNet – AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

They changed the site dramatically and gave users no warning to make a contingency plan, then launched the new version with a laundry list of broken tools and an astonishing scroll of things they’re “working on.”

Most people are reporting that the plugins are either broken or not compatible – including the most recent versions made by AVOS. The accrued bookmarks and tags are all still tucked away on Delicious’ site, but can’t be accessed by the plugin at all.

On launch day, the amount of people timing out while trying to log in was sadly impressive. As I write this, I get a 502 when checking the delicious.com link.

The RSS feeds were broken, the password reset was broken, browser extensions are still broken, tag bundles are gone (users put a lot of work into these), search by date is gone and search returns are not chronological, users are now unable to edit their tags…

The functionality of the site is gone. I have to wonder, did anyone at AVOS actually use Delicious?

via ZDNet – AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure. The second (maybe even third) great migration from Delicious is in effect only this time since exporting is broken, people are even more upset.

20 Sep

Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?

Netflix announced in a blog post Sunday evening that its DVD-by-mail operations would soon be rebranded “Qwikster,” and that the service would be separated from the streaming service that the company has been pushing for the last several years. Doing so clearly grants some independence to the unit, and will help it to operate without dealing with fast-growing streaming business. But it also raises questions about the future viability of a standalone DVD-by-mail operation.

Netflix isn’t completely abandoning the new DVD business — at least, not yet. After all, Qwikster will have the same characteristic red envelope and the same legacy infrastructure and library supporting it. However, it seems clear that Netflix is creating a wall between the two businesses as a way to smartly manage its profits and losses, and to help Wall Street better value the separate operations.

via Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?. Most people have complained primarly about the price increase Netflix brought about with splitting up it’s DVD and Streaming plans. That’s a side issue, licensing fees for streaming have most likely increased as the popularity and catalog of streamed movies increased.

The thing that bothers me about this decision is it makes a worse experience for those customers who straddle the line (using both the DVD and Streaming plans). All of sudden we have multiple queues, websites, rating systems, etc. One side aspect of this is who gets the core of the team that works on predicting what movie you’ll like after ranking this other movie (Netflix’s real golden goose). Will my rankings on one site generate better results? It also begins to sound like Netflix is planning to sell off it’s DVD side of the business. Never outside the realm of possible options but now it feels like it could happen in the next 6 months and Netflix couldn’t be bothered otherwise.

How long until Qwikster becomes just another forgotten piece of internet real estate?

07 Feb

Seth’s Blog – How should you treat your best customers?

If you define "best customer" as the customer who pays you the most, then I guess it’s not surprising that the reflex instinct is to charge them more. After all, they’re happy to pay.

But what if you define "best customer" as the person who brings you new customers through frequent referrals, and who sticks with you through thick and thin? That customer, I think, is worth far more than what she might pay you in any one transaction. In fact, if you think of that customer as your best marketer instead, it might change everything.

via Seth’s Blog – How should you treat your best customers?. I love the thought of flipping the idea of what a best customer means.

30 Dec

Seth’s Blog – Sadly stuck with the status quo

I know, I know, this is a rant. But it’s a rant with a point:

Fill in your own forms. Make your executives do it. Watch customers do it. See what your competitors are using. Improve the form. Don’t use pull down menus for more than 12 choices unless there really is no choice.

"Good enough" is a hard call, but I think we can agree that most online forms, aren’t.

via Seth’s Blog – Sadly stuck with the status quo. Easily the best way to improve customer facing aspects of a company is for top executives to have go through all of what you expect your customers to do.

24 Jun

Dustin Curtis – The Clear War by Kevin Mattice

Right or wrong, companies who care little about the design of a customer’s experience are often thought to care little about its customers. Poor design encourages people to believe in a brand’s ham-handedness, in its cloth-eared reluctance to listen and respond. If openness, communication, and accountability are the bellwethers of clarity, then poor design is a smudge—a flaw that seems to hide rather than reveal. That was the problem with my breakage scenario: The marketing guy preferred to hide from people, withholding information and feigning incompetence rather than fulfilling what seemed to be a sincere obligation.

via Dustin Curtis – The Clear War by Kevin Mattice. A designer’s job is provide a seamless experience not to trick customers.