They're losing me

I’ve been a (so far) loyal International Herald Tribune subscriber since I moved to France all those years ago. It’s one of only two snail-mail subscriptions that I’ve kept. I’ve always been a big newspaper reader because of the ritual (my emphasis). I also like the format, and for the most part, I love the content.

Explain what you’re doing

A couple months ago IHT changed delivery companies. I knew right away because the paper started being delivered in an eco-unfriendly plastic baggy rather than being held together by a recyclable paper ring. Almost immediately the trusty daily delivery started to falter. One day I’d get no paper, the next I’d get two days’ worth. The ritual was interrupted. The IHT also changed their layout a while ago. They explained why they did it and what the improvements were in a short article. They did not explain the change to the delivery process.

Remember, service providers are part of the brand experience

So I called the subscription hotline. I could have sent them an email, but I thought calling would be faster. The phone menu asked me to enter my subscription number, but I didn’t know where to find it. So I waited for an operator — who asked me for my subscription number over a noisy line from a foreign country. Turns out that the subscription number it’s not printed on the plastic baggy. We finally figured who I was using my address. IHT spent a lot of time and money on that new, easier to read layout, but why not on the phone menu?

Tear up the script

I told the service rep that I was filing a complaint. I told him that I was seriously considering canceling my subscription if service didn’t improve. He offered me a credit. I told him I didn’t want a credit, I wanted daily delivery. And if they couldn’t do it, I’d just cancel and read the IHT online, which technically would be even cheaper than any credit he could offer me.

Then he thanked me for my call and told me to that he would file a complaint on my behalf. At this point I had spent 5 minutes too long on the phone, so I didn’t have the energy to tell him that I could have filed it myself, had the new online account management site been launched in the spring of 2008, as was promised on the IHT’s site (and still is).

Takeaways

  • Don’t degrade your brand experience
  • User experience is more than just a software issue
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of ritual
  • Don’t overestimate the keeping power of your content
  • Give customer service the power to fix things
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