I’ve read two blog posts in the last day that remind me about my favorite part of the Internet, from a consumer perspective: the opportunity for justice to be done to companies whose draconian policies make our lives as consumers worse.
The first post was Joel’s indictment of Circuit City (spot on in my experience… the only store I had ever gone to where I couldn’t make a return, with a receipt in hand for an unopened product purchased less than a week earlier). The second was Lo Toney’s scathing assessment of some random IT company.
As a consumer, there is no more frustrating feeling than the one that comes when you’re dealing with a company that believes it has little to gain by making you happy. In addition to Circuit City, I’ve felt this way dealing with Staples (wouldn’t let me make a totally reasonable return), and Chase+Paypal (pages take 10+ seconds to load on a regular basis). Comcast has made me feel that way quite a bit too, although less so in the last couple months.
What is frustrating as a consumer is even more infuriating as an entrepreneur, because I understand that companies like these often have millions of dollars they could spend to improve service. But when Powers that Be sit in their boardroom to discuss how to dole out the bounty of revenue, they want to find an equation that describes why they should invest in an improved customer experience. When they can’t find one, the question becomes “Who cares if our unreasonable return policy upsets a few thousand people? Our customers number in the mieeeeeellons. ”
But, by faciliating frictionless communication between a huge body of consumers, the Internet has proven to be the great equalizer for these anti-customer companies. And it seems that they are increasingly meeting the justice they deserve. Circuit City is now gone, Comcast has been spending money in hopes to repair its image. Just as telling, companies that do care about their customers, like Costco, Amazon, and Nordstrom have thrived in the “Communication Age” we now live in.
It seems that the cost of leaving your customers frustrated is increasing with every new Facebook, Twitter, or LiveJournal account that gets registered (not to mention Yelp). As an avowed lover of justice, this trend has my vote as one of the best developments of the last 10 years. I hope & believe we’ll continue to see movement toward customer-friendly policies, as the communication pathways afforded by the web lay waste to old-guard companies that still don’t “get” that frustrated customers cost a lot more than that one customer.