Sunday, October 01, 2006

Inconvenience as a business tactic

I had two experiences as a consumer this weekend that ticked me off, both from brands that previously had flawless records with me.

#1 Bank of America
You could probably guess that I'm a seasoned online consumer. I do all my finances online and like those few seconds before take off in a plane, I frequently brush aside thoughts of danger and life ruinage. I do, however, take my precautions; like ignoring phishing emails and keeping all financial logins or passwords off my computer. Offline, I shred old mail and bonfire those credit card applications.

So take a guess at the first word that came to mind when I logged into my online banking account and found a credit card account for which I never applied. Oh *$##, what is this?! Since it was the weekend, finding someone to talk to was near impossible. Finally, I called the lost credit card number and found out what happened.

In an act of pure brilliance, the bank sent a loaded credit card (ready for activation) to an old address. This is a good time to note that I never applied for this card. Luckily, the card was returned to sender since the address was invalid but the account lingered in my profile. According to the bank, it was part of a "promotion". Are you kidding me?

I mean, I get it. Let's just skip the step where the consumer actually requests the product. Let's just send the product to the consumer and if they don't like it, they don't have to use it. Some of them will, so if we send 100 and only 2 start using, that'll be worth it. Yes, it may be worth it to your marketing quota but you just ruined 16 years of trust you've built with me. Way to go BofA!

#2 Xbox
I received an email a few days ago to renew my Xbox Live subscription. I hardly use it so what's the point, let's cancel. Want to guess how many clicks it took for me to cancel my Xbox Live subscription from this "reminder" email? 3? 10? 50?

Trick question. You can't cancel your subscription online. It took me over 20 clicks to find that out. I would show you the screenshots but I'll spare you the run around I experienced. The "easiest" way to cancel? Sign onto the service through your Xbox system.

Given that you can check every stat from almost every game you've play with the Xbox Live service online and you can update every other piece of information about your account online, the cancel thing must not be a technological hurdle. No, this is a conscious decision to make it difficult for me to cancel. For that, Xbox, you have lost my respect.

Attention Brands!

Look, I know those rebate things work because half the people don't bother to claim them. I know some consultant guy somewhere probably told you to apply the same "inconvenience" principles to other things. Apparently, they convinced you. But let me tell you this. You are playing with fire. These short-term gains you may be getting from a 2% lift is going to ruin the experiences for the other 98% of your customers. This may not be a high-traffic blog and I may not be a fearsome consumer advocate but rest assured, others will experience these tactics. In an Internet world, you can't get away with sleeze for long. Good luck with that.

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