Thursday, December 8, 2011

Communication is Trust

While tracking down a promising family Christmas gift, I discovered an e-commerce site that ranks up there with the TV series LOST as a model of clear, accessible communication. Trying to read product descriptions at is like driving through a rainstorm without using your windshield wipers.

Nothing is clear. Everything is murky. And you know you don't want to be there any longer.

This site fails on many counts.  It sells a wide range of products, but don't try to learn anything about the company; when you click on "About Us," the page is blank. "Contact Us" brings up an email template that doesn't identify anything about the company, its owners or its location.

For your reading pleasure, here's a graphic depicting their "sales copy" for one product - a handheld video camera.

When you first read a product description like "4GB HD mini-dv mini Video camera Smallest wireless voice recorders," you may think maybe it does make sense - you're the one with the problem. But then you read sentences like "With a PC camera function, easy to enjoy the network life can be when the computer camera," and you realize that this is a company that doesn't care how it communicates with its customers.

Shoddy work like this drives customers away. If no one in your firm can write comprehensible English, I sure don't want to have to deal with you in case of product questions or refunds. I'll click somewhere else, thanks.

But wait! Before you go, don't forget to check out the site's Deal of the Day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Attention, Police Surveillance Unit!

Get it right next time!
From Twitter:

Monday, October 17, 2011

RiM makes it up to frustrated customers

Research in Motion is making amends with its customers following last week's worldwide service outage. It may be too little too late, but it's good to see the company roar back with an innovative compensation plan following users' moaning and groaning last week.

Here's the story, from my Canadian Entrepreneur blog:

Great to see that Research In Motion is offering its frustrated clients free premium apps worth more than $100 each as an apology for last week's service outages.

A customer-service problem like that demanded a grand, serious gesture on the company's part (see my National Post blogpost here), and RiM has delivered.

The complete selection of premium apps will become available from BlackBerry App World for four weeks beginning Oct. 19. Enterprise customers will also receive a month of free technical support.

Good to see strong statements like these from RiM's embattled management:
“We’ve worked hard to earn [customers’] trust over the past 12 years and we’re committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect,” says RiM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.
“We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again.”

Industry analyst Francisco Jeronimo at IDC said the decision could be good for RIM, if it helps more customers to discover BlackBerry app services. Even so, he says, “More important than the offer itself, is that RIM is showing goodwill and being humble. They recognized the problem, apologized and now they are compensating their users.”

In my Oct. 14 NatPost blog, "overcompensate" was the phrase I used to describe how companies can rebuild trust following customer-service breakdowns. You have to prove you've learned your lessons, and that you value your customers' time and loyalty.
Here is my list of 7 Steps to take when faced with a company or customer-service breakdown.
Acknowledge the problem quickly.

Identify the magnitude of the breakdown as soon as possible.

Tell customers what outcome you are working toward. (e.g., How soon will power be restored?)

Don’t just say you’re working on the problem – show it. (Make sure they see you sweat.)

Take steps to shut-out customers as comfortable as possible.

Acknowledge customers’ confusion and frustration.

Overcompensate. Once the emergency is over, find creative, memorable ways to apologize for the inconvenience and thank customers for their tolerance.
You can read that complete column here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Eyes!!!!

Got a daily-deal coupon today for a local optical company. So I checked them out on the Web.

What did I find? This company's website thinks it's cool to put small black type on a dark red background. My eyes started hurting right away.

Thanks, Universal Optical. I don't think I'll buy my eyeglasses from a company that shows so little understanding of how people see and read.

Friday, September 9, 2011

If you can't prove it, don't say it

Hard to believe this type of stuff still goes on...

Canada’s Competition Bureau this week announced a settlement with Beiersdorf Canada Inc., after accusing it of using false and misleading claims to sell its Slimming and Reshaping Gel Cream.

The company will pay a $300,000 penalty. It must also repay customers who purchased the $15.99 cream, and remove the products from store shelves.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Beiersdorf Canada says it “entered into the consent agreement with the Competition Bureau” to address the agency's concerns, but does not accept the bureau’s views. It says all of its performance claims are supported by independent research.

The announcement followed a $900,000 settlement in June involving Nivea's My Silhouette with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Lisa Campbell, deputy commissioner of the bureau's fair business practices branch, told the Gazette that: "Ads are sometimes designed to target people's vulnerabilities, and so we try to be active in those areas to send a strong message to businesses: Don't take advantage of consumers to try and falsely drive their choices towards your product."

On its packaging and its website, Nivea's My Silhouette stated that the use of the cream could lead to a "reduction of up to 3 centimetres on targeted body parts, such as thighs, hips, waist and stomach." Beiersdorf also said the product could make the skin more toned and elastic, according to the bureau.

Campbell said the company failed to conduct adequate, verifiable tests to back up its claims.

Under the terms of the consent agreement, Beiersdorf is required to publish a corrective notice on Nivea's Canadian website and in major Canadian newspapers, and to pay $80,000 to cover the bureau's costs.

The company also faces a class-action lawsuit in Canada.

You can read the full story here.

Clearly, Beiersdorf needs a new approach to business – as well as new management.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A stack of scams

The other night I took a couple of kids to dinner at a prominent U.S. restaurant chain. The food was oversalted and overcarbed, but predictably tasty and fun. The waitress even agreed to give my son a side order that wasn't officially available for that particular entrée.

Then the trouble began. The waitress asked my daughter if she wanted bacon or ham with her order. With the confident tone she used (slightly stressing the word “ham” rather than “like”), it sure sounded like one of those sides was included in her order. We were very surprised to see an extra charge of $2.99 for the bacon on our final bill.

If IHOP is training its people to sell extra sides in a casual, inviting way that even hints that these are included in the entrée price, shame on them. If the waitress came up with this scam herself, she surely deserves to be promoted to management. At any rate, it was a teachable moment for my kids. Always ask, “Is that included in the price?” Or they’ll see you coming a mile away.

But that wasn't the worst problem. When the bill came, I noticed that she had overcharged us for each entrée. The rates were 50 cents higher for two of them, and $1 higher for one. I asked to look at a menu again just to make sure it wasn't my faulty memory.

When I politely asked the waitress how she came up with those prices, she said the “system” calculated the prices when she inputted the orders. She hadn't even noticed the amounts – and seemed as surprised as we were to compare the prices on the bill to the lower rates printed on the menu.

The waitress cheerfully adjusted the prices and wrote a note to the manager about the glitch. I’m sure there’s a reason for the discrepancy (perhaps there’s a new menu with higher prices coming out to coincide with the end of the month). But who knows how many people had been victimized by this problem, intentional or not?

For the introduction of automated systems that force customers to scrutinize every line on every bill to make sure they're not being scammed, we say of IHOP: New Management Welcome.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wanted, Dead or Alive: Obama Bin Laden

Stay classy, Fox News.
Or maybe you could just spend some money on hiring a proofreader.

Actual shot of a TV screen from May 1, the night they killed Bin Laden.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No words needed

When your name is Shell, you'd better be able to replace your burnt-out lights fast.