A few months ago, a magazine approached me from the insurance industry to do a mystery-shopping piece about insurance companies. For those new to this back page, or who haven’t followed the Ian Hughes story, my company is a mystery shopping company, which sort of focuses on that market. So the offer was interesting for us.
We worked hard on it for about 3 weeks to collect the data and turn it into an interesting article of about 1,000 words. Having submitted it on time, things went quiet. After a few days I wrote to the magazine to see what they thought. They wrote back saying that they really wanted to name and shame the bad companies, they weren’t interested in celebrating what was good in the good companies.
For me that causes a problem, a public naming and shaming is a bit like bring one of those paparazzo’s that follows stars around. I’d rather be a Hello magazine sort of mystery shopper, it just feels classier.
So I said no and the article was spiked.
You have got to hate sub-editors, with this esteemed magazine as the obvious exception. Clearly this is the Hello of Direct Marketing magazines.
I found this annoying, so I thought I would write to the editor. The best way to find the editor, go to the web site and look under contacts, Right? Well, when I went to the site, it gave me an error message when I called up contacts.
Being devious, I thought I would go in through the subscription route. After all, the whole point of publishing a magazine is to get people to subscribe. Isn’t it? Well, I clicked on the subscribe button and…error message.
Bottom line, you can’t buy from this company, and they don’t like to make it easy to talk to them
Imagine that, having a web site where you can’t subscribe and you can’t contact them to tell them you can’t subscribe
You know that they look at the web site regularly, because they will want to make sure that everything looks right in the work they have written. None of them have tried to subscribe or contact themselves via the site, though. Naturally, they will look at the subscriber stats and say “well no subscriptions from the site this week, that’s because no one ever subscribes from that site.” Little do they know the reason why?
The story doesn’t end there. 4 times over 6 months I wrote to them to tell them what was wrong. And the site is still broken.
What you have just witnessed first hand is not something terribly complicated. It is a simple piece of mystery shopping. In mystery shopping terms it is a Lowry. Simple and uncomplicated.
But when was the last time you mystery shopper yourself? When was the last time you checked out your own web site, actually bought something from yourself or tried your customer service? Or have you tried calling your company and seen how friendly the greeting is? Seriously, next time you call your office think toy yourself “would that be OK if I was a customer?
When you have a complicated system and process it is easy for things to fall over, it’s easy for mistakes to happen. But these sorts of mistakes are unforgivable.
It’s bad for a little back street Insurance Industry Magazine. But it can happen to the best of us. While writing this article I was considering whether I should go to DMDNY in New York. So I went to the DMDNY web site and clicked on exhibitors to see if I knew any of the exhibitors going. Then I thought I would check the agenda. A broken link.
We should know better, we could know better, but without good testing and good mystery shopping we won’t know. Another way to do it is to look at the error messages thrown up by your web site, but who has the time for that.
In the wonderful world of marketing, we often spend so much time thinking about and worrying about the look and feel of something that we completely, totally, utterly forget the execution. And the very people who should really care about it seem to be blinded to it. In Insurance Times doesn’t sell subscriptions then the sub-editor is out of a job. But the sub-editor doesn’t take enough pride to make sure the web site it right. Similarly whoever runs the web sites for DMDNY, if the show doesn’t work they will loose their job. Maybe a web site that works is a good place to start.
I can preach this lesson because I have failed at this, badly, so many times in my life that it is crazy. I have built so many web sites that build to dead ends. Where customers end up frustrated and annoyed. It can often happen when you are rushing to get something done and, as a result, you forget the details
In a world full of rich communications, you just expect the web to work. And if I have a choice of buying from you or your competitor, and your web site isn’t working, well guess where I am going!
When was the last time you gave your own web site a good kicking? And your competitors?