The Blockbuster Online Customer Experience
Posted by Becky Carroll on June 18, 2007
There have been many articles over the past several months outlining this very thing. For some people, they prefer the convenience of ordering their movies from home and never having to step foot in a video store (can we still call them video stores now that it is mostly DVDs?). Other people prefer looking through the shelves for the newest releases where they can pick up the boxes and quickly scan the movie summaries.
We have been Netflix subscribers for quite awhile (My Account in Netflix says it is since July 2004). However, after we moved last year, it seemed like the movies were taking longer to get to us (either that, or we are a “frequent renter” and get the movie delivery slowed down - thanks, Techcrunch!). So, we decided to go for the “free two week trial” on Blockbuster Total Access.
Blockbuster Online Experience
The sign-up process was quick and painless – even the taking of my credit card number (so they can charge me for any rentals not returned, we are told). I then got busy and forgot to put movies in my queue. Oops! Let’s walk through my experience.
Blockbuster Online reminded me about the queue 5 days after my trial started (half way over by that point). I received another email reminder the next day. The next reminder that my queue was empty was 6 days later, which was also two days before my trial was about to end. The day before the trial was to end, I received a survey from Blockbuster Online. Three days after my trial ended, I received an email to tell me I could use my E-Coupons to rent video games for free.
Free Trial Ends
I never received an email to tell me my trial was about to end, nor did I get an email to tell me it had ended. I forgot about it and, of course, I now have a full membership to Blockbuster Online being charged to my credit card.
Why didn’t Blockbuster Online remind me about my trial ending? Many marketers are afraid to tell their customers when a subscription or free trial is ending for fear the customers will terminate the subscription. Blockbuster Online seems to fall into this category.
Interestingly, there was a great case study put out on this very subject today from Marketing Sherpa (open access for one week from today). The case study outlines how a company used A-B testing to see whether giving customers a reminder that their free trial was about to end would affect conversion to paying subscriber. They offered an optional three-day reminder about the trial’s end when signing up for the trial. Customers using the reminder service actually had increased conversions to a pay subscription over those who didn’t use the reminder service. The reminder also helped customers overcome their concern about giving a credit card number during registration. Check out the full case study on the Marketing Sherpa website.
Blockbuster In-Store Experience
Back to my experience. The one good thing about the free trial was that I now had an E-Coupon which I decided to take into the local Blockbuster store for a free rental (we finally agreed on the movie Gremlins). Besides the lack of parking near the store (frustrating – made me want to go back home!), I had to take extra time to sign up for an in-store membership. I knew this would be the case, but when the employee pulled out the long-looking form for me to fill out, I was disappointed. Ten minutes later, I was finally in their system at the store, the video was rented, and I went back home.
Improving the Experience
How could this have been made better? While Blockbuster Total Access seems to be marketed as one service, from a consumer’s perspective it feels like two different companies. It is critical for multi-channel retailers to create a consistent experience across all customer touchpoints. Here is how I would recommend improving the experience for Blockbuster:
- Proactively work with me to make sure I understand how to use Blockbuster Online. Perhaps I didn’t put movies in my queue because I was having trouble. Perhaps I just forgot (that was me!). Either way, if I don’t actually try the service, the free movie you are giving me is a waste of money.
- Differentiate the messages you send me. The emails I received looked very generic, and my guess is they were the same messages any current subscriber would get. Blockbuster Online should know I am a trial customer and send me unique email content to encourage me to become a subscribing customer.
- Remind me when my free trial is about to end. Perhaps I was sick for awhile and not able to log onto the computer. Try sending a quick postcard to get through.
- Give me the option to continue to paying subscriber at the end of my trial. Don’t automatically convert me to paying. Now I have to go and figure out how to cancel this, and money is already coming out of my bank account. This does not start the relationship on a good note.
- Use the information you already have on me at all touchpoints. I was very disappointed that the computer at the local Blockbuster store didn’t have my customer information. I understand wanted to register me locally, but you should verify my identity, use what you know about me from my online trial sign-up, print out a form pre-filled with my information, then have me sign and agree to the details. If you can allow me to return a video to the local store, you can figure out who I am in your computer.
Is the Blockbuster business model working? Here is a post from MineThatData’s Kevin Hillstrom discussing the financial impact of Blockbuster’s decision to compete with Netflix.
A review of the customer experience needs to go further than just the single touchpoint with which a certain division is responsible. It needs to take the customer’s perspective and go across all channels. Only then can we be sure that our company’s engine is firing on all cylinders and moving in the right direction for the customer.