I’ve long been of the opinion that companies should listen to their customers. I know you all remember my column about Coca-Cola changing their formula. Well, I highly doubt a consumer requested that. Companies that listen to their consumers though, are the ones that will last. Like Dodge, when they listened to Dodge drivers and installed a step in the tailgates of their pickups. Who doesn’t want a tailgate step? Another example would be Microsoft, when they listened to consumers and made Windows 7.
Ahem. To a lesser extent.
But what about those companies (like Coca-Cola) that don’t listen to their customers and consumers? The ones that make changes that cause all kinds of havoc and ill schlit to happen? Those are the ones I want to talk about this morning. And one of them just happens to be a company I’ve already mentioned.
Yeah. Microsoft. Sure, we’ve all heard of companies upgrading their stuff or adding a chip that does this or that so people will have to buy the new version or the new product. Sometimes it gets a little ridiculous, but for the most part that’s just good business. But when Microsoft released Office 2007, they not only screwed their consumers, but they also verbed themselves in the noun.
Allow me to explain. This is a little technical, but I’m sure you’ve already experienced it anyway, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. Previous versions of Microsoft Word saved documents with a .doc extension. And it was this way from the earliest versions of the suite, all the way through 2003. Then in 2007, they release a new version of Office, and what do they do? They change the native save format from .doc to .docx. Yes. They added an extra letter to the end. Which is gay in and of itself, because everyone knows that file extensions are three characters.
So this achieved two things for the company: number one, when someone creates a document in 2007 and sends it to someone using 2003, the recipient cannot open it. And secondly, when the recipient calls the sender and says, “Hey, what the hell?” the sender must go back and re-save the document in 2003 (.doc) format. Fine. But then it won’t save all the new elegant content that only 2007 can embed.
I know this is a gay topic, but I bring it up because, dude. Seriously? Imagine if Microsoft actually provided support for their consumers, how many phone calls they would have been taking. So they had to go back and design a patch called a ‘compatability pack’ that 2003 users could install, which would allow them to open the newer .docx extensions. So what marketing genius decided this new product was so great and groundbreaking that it deserved an entire new extension? And what brilliant engineer allowed it to be released like that, knowing how much headache it was going to cause?
Take a look, on the other hand, at Google. Google offers everything Microsoft does. Everything. Spreadsheets, documents, calendars, email, storage, and even voice services. The only difference is that Google’s is free. Microsoft is charging almost a thousand dollars for its office suite. Google’s does the same thing, but it’s free. And yes, you can get a Google Voice phone number for free. Have you checked that service out? It’s amazing! I can’t wait until Google knocks Microsoft off its high horse and takes over the world.
Another company that abandoned its consumers was Firestone. Remember all those tires they made that caused all the F-150s to flip over? Yeah. A bunch of people died on that one. And what that represents to me is that Firestone changed their formula. They made tires somehow differently than their normal process dictated. They added another letter to their extension, if you will. Oh. You won’t? Okay. Well let’s stick to the formula analogy then.
Another bad example of customer service is rewards cards. Like when you go to Kroger and buy some coffee and newt livers, there’s a price listed on the item – but it’s only if you’re a member of their rewards program. It’s usually free to join, but then you have to carry a stupid card on your keychain or in your wallet. And sometimes if you forget yours, the checker can just scan one from the pile sitting there on the stand. Really? What’s the point? Stop making some excuse to have an exclusive price-saving club, and just start giving everyone the same low price. You’ll find people want to shop with you more frequently.
Along those lines of companies just flat out disrespecting their consumers, try this on: any company that sends someone out with a mailbag walking door-to-door, hanging flyers on my door handle will never see my money. Nothing is more maddening than having to throw away all their spam – especially when it’s on your car, under your wiper blade. Man, that pisses me off. If you’re advertising like that for your company, be advised that the only reason I will look at the flyer with which you spammed me is to get your company name. Then I make a mental note never to shop there.
I once had a company come to my door to hang a flyer – they had already hit every other house in the neighborhood, I suppose – but I had a plaque on my door reading, “No Soliciting – I’ll Kill You”. Beneath it I had another sign that read, “Do not hang your spam on my doorknob or I will kill you too.” And you know what this dipshit did? He hung it from one of the branches on my plant, just off my porch. “Hey at least it’s not on your doorknob!” Well I called the company that sent those out and had a few words with them. Not that it achieved anything. Because let’s face it: a company that sends out trash like that isn’t one that will listen to its consumers.