Customers Rock!

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

The Blockbuster Online Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 18, 2007

masks.jpg Netflix vs. Blockbuster.  Two services, similar prices, similar offerings.  One has a retail store, one is only online.  Which offers the better experience?

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.


11 Responses to “The Blockbuster Online Customer Experience”

  1. Katie said

    I originally tried the Blockbuster service, but it was so frustrating that I gave up. Sounds like they still don’t have their act together.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie. No one has a perfect experience (that is why we were trying out Blockbuster in the first place!). However, I get a little irked when I have to repeat information that someone already has. Hopefully, Blockbuster will take notice!

  3. Becky,
    You provide some valuable customer insight that Blockbuster would do well to heed! I especially like the last point about recognizing the customer across all touchpoints. (That, of course, has been the intention of CRM.) I have one further suggestion to follow on. While companies need to think from the customer perspective, they need to take the guesswork out of this by talking regularly with customers. Touching base with customers at defined points during the customer life cycle gives companies dials they can turn to influence customer retention, repurchase, and referability. Then, if you ask customers for input, you need to close the loop with them, first of all letting them know you heard them and secondly, if possible, informing them of what actions your company is taking in response.

  4. Phillip said

    I use blockbuster total access when I’m at school, and it has been great. The local blockbuster is across the street, so once I’m done with the movie, I turn it in for a free rental in the store. It was frustrating when I was immediately added as a paying customer once my trial ended, but my trial was in the early days and lasted for a whole month.

  5. Richard said

    Blockbuster is Ok, at best. They give you great service during the trial period, even sending out movies on saturday. During the trial you turn a movie in the store, get your free movie and a few hours later the next movie is mailed out from the store and you would get it in 2 days.
    But once it over saturdays are gone and the turn around time for mail moves increases. Within one month movie that use to take 2 days to get from the time you turned it in the store now takes about 8 days. For me the warehouse is in Richmond, VA and I live near Virginia beach. It about a 2/3 hour drive away. I use to get about 8 moves a week now i sometimes get 0 because of the long processing time. Most of the time they have had the movie back in their warehouse a day or two before they finish processing the movie and mail it.

  6. Jason said

    I have been a subscriber of Blockbuster Online since the service was less than one month old. I like movies, and I have used my account to near full capacity since then. I always exchanged my movies in store to get as many titles as I could. I always argued with people who said that Netflix had the better service, and recommended Blockbuster to all of my family members and friends. At least once a month, I would pick out the titles I liked the best and buy the previously viewed copies from Blockbuster’s brick and mortar stores. In short, I believed that I was the model of a good customer.

    Now Blockbuster has decided that I am too expensive as a customer and has discontinued my account type. They are offering me a plan with less service for the same price with no apology. I complained to their Online Customer Care, and this is the response I get…

    Hello Jason,

    Thanks for contacting BLOCKBUSTER Online Customer Care.

    It is my pleasure to be of service to you. Thank you for your time in notifying us. Like all retail businesses, we must periodically review our pricing structure. In introducing a wider range of subscription plans, we considered a number of factors including the number of in-store exchanges on a given account. We’re giving our most frequent renters like yourself the option of either continuing with unlimited in-store exchanges at a higher price point or moving to a plan where the number of in-store exchanges is fixed if you’d like to continue with the same rate.

    We feel we are still delivering a great consumer value and encourage you to continue your membership by selecting one of the new plans we offer. You can find the details of what is available via “My Account” in the “Subscription Plan” area. Please remember that if you do not select one of the new plans we have to offer before your next regular billing date, we will not be automatically renewing your membership. Thank you very much for your inquiry.

    Customer Care Associate

    so, my reply…

    You are not being of service to me. You are telling me that I should shut up and enjoy being raped, and I won’t stand for it. You are telling me that I should accept less service for the same price and be happy about it. Are you fracking kidding me?

    Like all customers who are unhappy with the treatment they receive from a retail business, I am forced to take the only action I have available to demonstrate my dissatisfaction: I will never spend another penny with Blockbuster or any of it’s affiliates. I will never rent from your brick and mortar stores again (Hollywood Video, here I come). I will stop buying previously viewed titles from you as well. I will strongly encourage everyone that I know who currently uses your online service (many of whom do so on my recommendation) to do likewise. That blog that I’ve been thinking about starting, I just found a good topic to start with.

    I sincerely hope that all of your existing customers will make the same choice, so that you will realize that this is not the way to treat the people who provide you with revenue. Biting the hand that feeds is never a good strategy.

    It is only recently that Blockbuster has seen the kind of subscriber growth necessary to finally compete with Netflix. I hope you understand that your pricing changes put that growth in serious jeopardy. Feel free to contact me when you have come to your senses, but until then, this is “goodbye” and “go f*ck yourself.”

  7. Thank you all for sharing your various stories. Clearly the experience in inconsistent at best. This illustrates why, as Nancy said, it is so important to listen to customer feedback and then act on it – in some way! There are some frustrated customers here. Blockbuster, are you listening? Feel free to contact me to get some help on creating a rockin’ customer experience.

  8. unlocks said

    This article is SO favorited

  9. Man said

    I exploit blockbuster full accessibility when I’m on university, and it has already been excellent. A nearby blockbuster can be next door, so once I’m through with the actual film, We transform it in for a totally free leasing within the store. It had been aggravating after i seemed to be instantly additional being a having to pay customer once my own trial run concluded, yet my own trial run is at their early times as well as held up for any complete 30 days.

  10. Romero said

    Thank you just about all regarding revealing your a variety of experiences. Evidently the event in inconsistent with very best. This particular shows exactly why, as Nancy claimed, it truly is thus essential to be controlled by comments from customers after which work into it – in some way! There are numerous irritated consumers here. Blockbuster, will you be being attentive? Experience absolve to call myself to obtain several assist about building a rockin’ purchaser knowledge.

  11. Many thanks most for giving the several reports. Definitely the feeling throughout inconsistent at best. This particular illustrates the reason why, while Nancy stated, it is thus essential to listen to customer opinions and act on it – somehow! There are many aggravated consumers right here. Blockbuster, are you currently listening? Really feel absolve to make contact with me to get a few support in setting up a rockin’ purchaser practical knowledge.

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