Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

A Little Too Honest?

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 15, 2007

compare1.jpgIn this blog, I always stress the importance of being authentic with your customers.  Whether through marketing or customer service, customers can tell when an organization is not looking out for their best interests. 

I also suggest appropriately setting customer expectations.

I received a message recently from a reader who was not at all excited about AT&T Yahoo! Member Services and the expectations they are setting for her (and other current customers).  She forwarded me an email from AT&T Yahoo!, which opens by reminding her about AT&T Yahoo! and their award-winning products and services she has been receiving.  It then goes on to let her know she will be getting unlimited email storage.  However, the kicker is the next paragraph:

Additionally, within the next few weeks you will begin seeing graphical advertisements in your AT&T Yahoo! Mail service. These advertisements will be integrated into the AT&T Yahoo! Mail experience, and we hope you will find the advertisements useful. Advertising such as this allows us to continue delivering new and innovative elements to our service and helps us keep prices competitive, while we continue to provide the high level of service that you have come to know and trust.

Thank you, AT&T Yahoo! Member Services, for letting us know that we will now be seeing “graphical advertisements” in our email.  Good to know what to expect, and we understand that costs are rising.  However, hoping that we will find the advertisements “useful” is a bit of a stretch.  From a customer perspective, advertisements may be considered annoying or a necessary evil (which is how they were described here), but the only people considering them useful are the websites and the advertisers themselves.

Perhaps At&T Yahoo! could have offered a choice to their customers.  If you want unlimited email storage, you will have to choose the service with advertising.  If you don’t care about the amount of storage space (or for a small fee?), you can choose the advert-free email.  For example, Electronic Arts has online games at their pogo.com site.  If you don’t mind advertisements, you can play for free.  If you prefer advert-free gaming, you can subscribe to their Club Pogo for a nominal yearly fee; this also gets the subscriber additional benefits (such as special Club Pogo games, cool ways to keep track of your gaming status, etc.).

The email message closed by stating this:

We strive to provide you with the best online experience possible and to address all your needs on the Internet.

Is the addition of advertising truly a way to create the best online experience possible for customers?  Let’s hope the words “customer experience” are not becoming a meaningless phrase used by organizations wanting to look like they care about their customers.

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6 Responses to “A Little Too Honest?”

  1. Becky,

    It boggles the mind. Businesses recognize experiences are important and then turn around and do something that creates a less-than-great experience. Why?

  2. Good question, Lewis. I just don’t think that many businesses give customer strategy much more than lip service. It sounds good to say “we are focused on the customer”, but actions speak louder than words!

  3. As I speak I am arguing with an ATT person who says this can’t be avoided. The Yahoo materials are not a part of the service I pay for. The email service I get as a part of the High Speed package is to be able to retrieve my email using Outlook or Outlook Express. I have been bounced back and forth between Tech support and Customer service each saying that the other side has to deal with it. Neither is of any help.

    I do not think anything can be done unless a lot of people complain. I find it funny that I see no ads on the main Gmail page, which is free. Granted there are ads on the individual email pages.

    My contract with them expires next month. Maybe it is time to get a cable modem.

  4. Thanks so much for leaving a comment, Roger!

    Sorry to hear you are caught up in this issue. It is always interesting to me the way companies look at it from their internal perspective rather than from the customer’s perspective. Too much finger pointing happens, either internally (as in your case) or externally (to the partner company). It doesn’t matter who is right, it matters what is right.

    Sometimes just giving customers a choice is enough to keep them satisfied. I am not sure that complaining to a company that is not customer-centric will make that much difference. Good luck, and let me know what you decide to do! (And if you do leave, make sure to let them know why.)

  5. Adam Kayce said

    It’s so true, isn’t it — to say you believe in something, and yet still have actions that undermine it.

    I’d love to give big companies the benefit of the doubt (and I mostly do), because as I see it, it’s a perspective/paradigm shift. Old guard and new guard. And old habits can take a while to finish their sputtering and death throes.

    For example, I have (um, make that ‘had’) a marketing teacher who schooled me wonderfully on a number of ideas. But social marketing/blogging/2.0 thinking has, so far, escaped him completely. From my view, I can’t imagine why it’s taking him so long to get it. But it is.

    I think the more we see this trend of mismatched words and actions, the more this saying will come to pass: “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.”

  6. Hi Adam,

    Why does it take some companies so long to change their thinking? I was at a Web 2.0 seminar yesterday, and one of the people in the room was concerned about the “Pandora’s Box” it could open for their company. I think companies need to embrace their customer feedback proactively, and social media provides a great way to do it. If they don’t, they will have to face it anyway later, but by then it won’t be as manageable.

    I think mismatched words and actions are appalling when it comes to wooing new customers but taking your existing customers for granted. Thanks for sharing your ideas on this, Adam.

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