Typography, Web Design, Motion Design and Animation
Eureka Pizza will continue to get my business. Vistaprint will not. Off The Press Printing won’t either. Cox Communications will. [Yikes. Sorry for the length of this.]
How many times have we been lured into buying a product or service that turned into a disaster, or just simply didn’t pan out? Were we persuaded by the promise of good “support” in case something goes wrong? It seems that the bigger and, perhaps, more geographically distant the business, the worse the experience can be. It can be incredibly frustrating to feel that you’re being taken advantage of and have lost money.
In the past, when we had poor results from a business we were only able to moan to a few friends at the party, or threaten to “call the CEO” or in worst-case scenarios sue the company, which very few people ever did.
I had a less-than-positive experience with the businesses listed above. In each case, a combination of promised services, ensuing frustration, an iPhone, Twitter feeding into Facebook, and the entitled modern consumer, led directly to a discussion with a representative of the business itself. A smart business today employs tactics to instantly head off any negative feedback by following Twitter’s trending topics or any reference to their business. The important factor is what the business does with any negative tweets.
Lately, I’ve been debating the relevance of social networking tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, as a “watchdog” of business performance. This hive-mind collective system we have of “friends” and “followers” who can receive instant positive or negative reviews to their phones and computers within seconds of the “broadcast” really changes the whole system of user and customer reviews. When the Web itself became a massive conduit of the judging of business performance on Web sites such as Epinions.com and on the retailer’s own site, the game of purchasing changed completely. I NEVER shop for something online without reading the customer comments/reviews and almost always base my final decision on the reviews of a product or service. Only problem was, these are random people with all kinds of taste, from even possibly a few years in the past, in various parts of the world, with possibly nothing in common to us. If they’re even real or sincere.
Enter social media: Our hundreds of friends, family and work acquaintances instantly receive our review. They know us. We know them. We undoubtedly share certain likes, disklikes, tastes. They sympathize directly with us. They believe us and there’s a good chance they’ll take our purchasing advice. Just think of the “stick-it-to-the-man” potential. If businesses promise results or good service, we should expect it and demand it. It seems that social media channels could be the tool that ensures good quality business.
At Eureka Pizza, a local, really good pizza place here in the area, I recently had, in the end, a good experience. It was three times the combination of an extremely busy week and a matter of minutes to pick up a dinner with the promise of “Hot and Ready” pizzas. The idea, as I understand it, is that you swoop in and buy a pizza that is sitting, waiting for you. For a good price. However, the last three times I went in, there were none ready and I had to wait, one time for 10 minutes. It feels ridiculous typing it, because it’s really not a long time. However, when you’ve got every minute planned with several kids at activities, someone usually sick, places to be, it turns out to be a long time. I was comparing it to the Little Caesar’s “Hot and Ready” pizza in Tucson, which had a stack of pizzas always ready and it took about a minute to go in, get the pizza, pay and leave, even at the rush of dinner time. The crucial part of the discussion is that the pizza is less expensive this way, and you know it’s been sitting there for awhile, it’s not fresh, and that’s OK. It’s cheap and quick and you agree to lose a little quality. For the record, Eureka is way better than Little Caesar’s, even in the “Hot and Ready” scenario, and when we order pizza we usually order from them. (I had a competing, delivery style pizza a few days ago and it was bad bad.)
It was only because of social networking that my “case” reached the owner of Eureka, a discussion came around and I continue to like Eureka Pizza. The owner, Rolf Wilkin, saw my tweet, contacted me, apologized, asked me for more details, and offered to refund my money. Amazing! That’s a great business owner. To do my part, I went in and deleted those tweets and will soon tweet about my continued pizza purchasing from them.
On the opposing front, I ordered a large banner for a one-time event from Vistaprint, along with some flyers and t-shirts. The flyers and t-shirt came, but the banner did not and wasn’t going to. It was massively disappointing and we were furious. I called, quoted the “satisfaction” language from their site. I sent out a tweet about never using them again, detailing my experience in opposition to their Web site’s claim of “Guarantee of Satisfaction” with all the normal “commitment to satisfaction if you’re not 100% satisfied” and all that rubbish. Someone from that company saw my tweet and asked me how they could “help,” and I eventually talked to some deadpan person on the phone in India who just basically said there’s nothing they could [would] do, there was a problem in prodution (not my fault they admitted) and there was no way they could have it to me. They wouldn’t even refund the shipping to make me happy or even talk about quickly printing the banner, Fed-Exing it to me for my one-time event. I could go on, but I won’t. I now use Print Place for everything else and they’ve been great.
A local print shop, Off The Press, treated me rudely. The owner disparaged the quality of my work, my students, and ignored requests for a press check. It was bizarre. I tweeted/facebook-ed it and several friends and acquaintances agreed to not use them. They lost not only my future work but others.
Cox was to show up one morning to install high-speed internet. Their service is way faster than AT&T’s DSL and seems low-cost for the fast service. However, they didn’t show up. I tweeted/facebooked about the classic case of “waiting for the cable guy” who never came… Someone at Cox in Missouri Direct Messaged me with “How can I help?” and she meant it. She took care of it (they had it scheduled wrong on their end) and got me a quick install for the next day. Day of, she followed up. All able to happen because of these social networking tools.
So, to recap (anyone still there?):
Reasons I’ll keep going to Eureka Pizza
- Good pizza
- Good price
- Local business
- Conscientious and respectable owner
Reasons I’ll never use Vistaprint again
- Remote, faceless owners
- Indian tech support. I’m not sure what it is about the combination and our system of corporate capitalism and something over there, but the near-universal bad experience with Indian tech support is infinitely more frustrating than the malfunctioning product itself. The sly using of some American-sounding name. The attempt to speak with an American accent. The experience is riddled with deceit from the start! (Indian people? Always have loved all the Indian people and students I’ve met and worked with. And the food!)
- Unsatisfactory compensation when they screwed up
Reasons I’ll keep using Cox internet
- A nice, semi-local contact
- I have to — it’s the best provider of high-speed internet
- Good price for high-speed
Personal Goals Based on the above experiences:
- Continue to send out more and more tweets when I’ve had a positive experience with a business, such as the service, food and atmosphere that we’ve gotten at Geraldi’s restaurant. Every time I go, I’m practically sloshing red sauce into my phone “keys” as I can’t wait to spread the wonder of the food to my friends and “followers.” Many of my friends have gone to that restaurant based on my recommendations and have also loved it. Same with Petra Cafe.
- Try to keep perspective before I tweet
- Tweet ever more about positive local business experiences
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