Start Up Blog

How to lose a customer

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 20, 2014

I’ve been using a certain weather app on my phone for some time. It is called Pocket Weather AU – Lite. It is the free version. A few times when I have clicked in to check the weather, it has given me this pop up screen below:

Pocket Weather

This time in good faith, I thought I’d click through and see what the offer was. To my disappointment, it was a simple ‘buy our paid version‘ of the app. No benefit, no exclusivity, nothing had been unlocked, no reason, no thanks for using. Just their way of asking me to upgrade. Now if you ask me there cannot be a more insulting way to incentivise a customer to upgrade. Tell them they are a cheapskate, pretend to offer something better, and then give them nothing for using the service for a few years.

Here’s what I did. I deleted their app – got another equally good free weather app, and wrote this blog entry about what I think might not be the best way to engage an audience your doing business with. Some things these guys might want to consider:

  1. If you don’t want your app to be free, then make it a paid version.
  2. Insulting people is not a very effective way to get them to upgrade financially to a software or web service.
  3. Making promises of exclusivity and non existent benefits is generally not a good idea.
  4. Understand the economics of excess supply. There are a zillion other free weather apps and my cost of moving to another service is close to zero.
  5. But mostly respect people, and maybe make them some kind of offer or reward for loyalty if employing a fermium business model.

I prefer to be positive in life, and have not even enjoyed writing this entry. Maybe that’s the over riding lesson. Don’t lie, treat people with respect and  positivity and they just might give you more money.

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Reinforcing decisions – Wikipedia feedback

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 29, 2012

My post yesterday was about the simple yet great fundraising effort by Wikipedia.

Well today I got a lovely follow up letter, which although I’m sure much of it is ‘form, it didn’t feel like it. It was also from ‘Sue’ with her actual email address and phone number (not included) not a ‘thankful robot’. Actually it said some smart stuff which reinforced my decision – which is something few brands bother to do.

—-

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!

It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody’s PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that’s not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be.

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.

On behalf of those people, and the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Most people don’t know Wikipedia’s run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you’re interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources here that can help you get started. Don’t worry about making a mistake: that’s normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

I appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you we’ll use your money well.

Thanks,
Sue
Sue Gardner
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation
https://donate.wikimedia.org

—–
I wonder how many startups are this thankful to their first customers?

 

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The Foxtel hack

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 9, 2012

I’ve been a vocal opponent (and customer) of Foxtel. A service that, as the web evolves is loosing its reason for being in my life. So I decided to disconnect my service and here is the interesting story of what happened.

I called the number and the options to choose from (1,2,3,4) for the appropriate issue. This surprisingly included ‘Press 4 to disconnect’. This was the first clue things aren’t right down at Foxtel. Any business that has this issue come up often enough to include it in the first 4 options of customer interaction has some issues.

So I click it and get put through to the ‘Customer Retention Center’ and they ask me why I want to disconnect. A few of the reasons I tell them include:

  • I’m sick of seeing better offers advertised to new customers. (Screw the existing ones hey!)
  • They have reduced the services and kept the price the same for my account.
  • I can’t get movies on demand (which I’m prepared to pay for) without signing up to a more expensive packaging (WTF, the tubes are already in my house?)

They apologise, tell me I’ve been a good customer for a few years, so they offer me a $30 discount per month. Which is 30% off what I’ve been paying. I retort with, ‘if I’m such a good customer why do you only try and keep me once I’ve already decided to leave you?’ Seems to me they have things back to front at Foxtel.

So I took the discount for now – I’m moving house in 2 months and it is all over for me and Foxtel then.

My advice to any Foxtel subscriber out there is to call up to disconnect and get the discount anyway and hack their already flawed proposition, before it gets hacked entirely by market forces.

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Living in the past – Nixon

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 12, 2011

To: orders@nixonnow.com.au
Subject: Order on line

I am trying to buy a wallet on line – but there is no way to add item to shopping basket.

Please help/

Steve.

——————–

To: “Sammartino, Steve”
Subject: RE: Order on line

Hi Steve,

Our online store currently offers watches and audio product only. For a larger range of our clothing and accessories please visit our preferred online retailer here:

http://www.surfstitch.com/brand/nixon

Kind regards,

——————–

To: orders@nixonnow.com.au
Subject: Re: re: Order on line

Hmm – that’s pretty 1996 don’t you think?

Surfstitch.com.au don’t have the item I want… ?????

Can I order over the phone and pay via credit card and get sent to me that way?

Let me know,
Steve.

——————–

I’m yet to hear back from these guys yet. Although they did give their initial response within 30 minutes. I’m still waiting for the second response. A person with credit card in hand, ready to buy.

Ignoring the fact that it is totally ridiculous to sell some things on line and not others, it is more ridiculous to not call me back (they have my number), take my order, take my money, go down to the warehouse and grab the item and put it in an express post or fed ex bag.

When it comes to selling on-line, being half committed is often worse than not being involved at all.

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The authentic phone message challenge

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 16, 2010

I’ll start by saying the concept of getting customers to “hold” on a telephone is a pretty bad idea. Then I’ll tell this story….

Today I was on hold for Optus telecommunications, which gave me a reasonably standard phone message:

“Your call is important to us. At this time we experiencing high demand for our telephone support staff, and we’ll be with you as quickly as we can. Please hold the line for the first available operator.”

Here’s what I seriously would prefer to hear:

“We’ve made a deliberate choice to only have X number of people to answer our phones. They are incredibly expensive and having any more than this would impact our profit too much. We’ve done studies which have worked out the number of people that hang up for waiting too long, and how much revenue the average phone call generates or loses for us. The number of people employed to answer our phones is just about optimal. We check this every few months. The average wait is about 5 minutes, so it’s a cool idea to put the phone on load speaker while you wait. Then you can do other stuff. If we answer and you’re not at the phone immediately, we’ll do you the the same favour of waiting a bit while you run to the phone to talk to us once we actually answer. We hope you appreciate our honesty. We reckon it’s better than giving you a load of shit that tells you how important you are. Cheers.

And so the challenge goes out to any startup or business is prepared to develop the worlds first authentic phone message be sure to let us know here at Startup blog so we can spread the awesomeness.

There’ll also be a prize for the best comment with a phone number to a company that has a message of this ilk – and the prize is $100 Amazon gift voucher.

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How not to run a promotion – the Chef’s Hat

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 4, 2010

I had a discussion with Luke Waldren who had a very poor customer service experience from the Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. For those who don’t know, the Chef’s Hat is regardred as the premier retailer in our city for restraunters, cafe owners and hard core Foodies. They sell a range of appliances and all things related to food retailing – except for the actual food.

Luke went down to buy a a Kitchen Aid appliance, for which he knew there was a promotion at the Chef’s Hat retail store. The offer was pretty simple: Buy a Kitchen Aid blender and recieve a free Kicthen Aid knife worth $49.95. A nice bonus offer for consumers. The offer is below – which mind you is on the front page of their website.

So when Luke arrives at the cash register to pay, there is no mention of the free knife. He then proceeds to ask and says. “Hey, isn’t there a free knife that comes with the blender.” The retail assistant claims no knowledge of the promotion. But luke brings out the iPhone and shows the bonus offer straight from their website as proof. The retail assistant then asks for the manager over the load speaker to come and help. When the manager arrives this is the conversation that transpired:

Retail assistant: “Are we giving away knives with these blenders?”

Manager: “if we have to…”

The manager then leans over to a draw filled with said knives, grabs one and throws it across the table to give to Luke. As though he got caught out. As though he lost one of his precious inventory to god forbid, a customer who entered the store because of the promotion.

If you are going to run a promotion. You have to mean it.

We have to advise those who didn’t know about it. We need to share the benefit with delight. We have to share the message that we go the extra mile and create more value than our competitors. If we are going to act like we don’t really want to participate, then we shouldn’t. Or worse, if we are going to treat our customers with disdain, then we’ll end up on blogs like this spreading the bad word.

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Customer empathy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 26, 2010

My cousin recently purchased a new home. For most of us such a large financial commitment is quite overwhelming.

During the settlement process Chris had a discussion with his conveyancer about the impending transaction and the issues in his mind. His conveyancer said:

“Look, I know this isn’t the type of thing you do everyday, but I do. And I’ll make sure it runs smoothly and you get looked after.”

Such a simple statement showed terrific empathy. It built confidence in the service provider, and eased the mind of the customer. It’s this type of language which creates conversations and can set apart entrepreneurs.

Language matters. What language do you use?

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Business pulse

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 6, 2009

You have a pulse – it’s important it never stops.

Your business has a pulse – when it stops your customers assume your dead or dying.

pulse

This why the following elements are crucial for your business or startup:

  • Advertising frequency
  • Newsletter updates
  • Web page changes
  • Twitter feed on your homepage
  • Regular blogging
  • Returning phone calls & emails the same day
  • Speedy invoicing (guilty)
  • Product iterations and improvements
  • PR & media exposure
  • Team, fan, member, evangalist get togethers
  • Conversing with your people on line
  • Conversing with people off line
  • Acknowledging (not hassling) everyone who enters your office, retail space or workshop.

Let your customers know you’re alive, and they’ll treat you like you are. Let them think your dead or dying and they’ll ensure you die for sure.

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Your phone number

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 19, 2009

I have my personal mobile number published on the rentoid.com contact page. Crazy? Maybe. Yes I do get the occasional phone call from overseas at 3am – and I answer it bleary eyed, and turn on my laptop to help the rentoid member.

Here’s why I do it:

- I get instant feedback on what we need to do to improve rentoid

- I ask them how they found us

- I tell them things they not not know about rentoid to improve their experience

Importantly, I surprise them with some personal service, from an actual fully fledged web business, which is beyond expectations.

Sometime in business we need to be prepared to be ‘annoyed’ in order to ‘delight’

Startup blog says: Make yourself available.

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Southwest Airlines – customer service

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 6, 2009

Here’s a nice piece of personal input from a staff member at Southwest Airlines. Although they do have a reputation of doing things a little different, the thing that really matters is the fact that they let staff ‘add value’ and be real people.

I like it…. I’d be interested to know if you do, or if you’d find it annoying?

For startups, simple service innovations and staff input cost almost nothing. If you’re lucky, 25,000 people will see it on the internet!

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