1. Do not make it hard for me to buy things from you, because then I won't. You would think that this would be an exceptionally simple concept: if you want people to pay you money in exchange for goods or services, don't make it hard for them to do that. But for some reason, a lot of companies can't seem to get this down. 's recent comic (http://goo.gl/TuRMn) and 's recent blog post (http://goo.gl/L7VFC) summarize this pretty well for media companies, who are probably the worst at it: they put so much effort into Baroque business models which are meant to "section up" the markets and maximize prices that customers pretty much just get pissed off and leave.
Closely related is rule 1b: Do not make it hard for me to use the things that I buy from you. If I can only use what I buy from you in conjunction with your proprietary software/hardware/wombat inseminator, and if that ever breaks then I'm SOL, I am a lot less likely to buy something from you, especially if it's something that I notionally give a damn about working. Example: If I'm buying music from you, I want to simply be able to play the music on my music player, without having to have a special decoder which is available only on some models and which has five licenses and if one of the machines breaks before I can release the licenses from it that license is gone for all eternity. That's really complicated when all I want to do is push "play."
2. Be basically organized about your business. Good experience: I go to your store, find something I like (and hey, it was easy to find it!), buy it, get a receipt, go home. Another good experience: I go to your website, find something I like, order it, get a receipt, it gets shipped to me, I can track it easily. Bad experience: I go to your website, sit through pages of annoying flash animation, have to dig through an "artsy" interface, find something I like, pay you, struggle with your incomprehensible order page which makes me reenter everything because it couldn't understand my phone number without the dashes, then get a vague "receipt" which only tells me that you've gotten my order and, at some point in the future, a product will probably arrive at my door. Or maybe not. The more organized you are about the common things I have to do with your business, the easier those things are for me to do with you, and that takes us right back to rule 1.
Interesting example: Until recently, IKEA had completely different shipping policies if you ordered from their corporate web site and from their store, and shipping from the website was insane. (We'll call you 24 hours before delivery to give you a time window, and if you can't make that particular time window on 24 hours' notice, we'll charge you a $200 redelivery fee...) So you had to go to the store, load everything onto carts, push it through the checkout lines, then wait for an hour in a delivery line to get it shipped to your house. Or own a large truck.
3. If something goes wrong, just deal with it. A little customer service goes a long way. Good experience: I bought a mattress topper from Bed, Bath & Beyond. It turned out not to be very comfortable. I drove to the store and returned it. The entire proces took something like 5 minutes, and everyone was very friendly. Knowing that, if something goes wrong, it's easy to deal with makes me suddenly a lot more likely to want to come to your store again. (In fact, I was on the fence about them before this. Now I like them. See how easy I am to get as a customer?) Bad experience: Too numerous to list, and I will get far too angry if I think about it.
4. If I do buy something from you, that is not a request that you keep contacting me all the time. The worst companies about this are theaters and the like: you buy a ticket, and suddenly you're getting weekly phone calls asking if you'd like to subscribe to this or that. But lots of other companies do this, too, because someone in a marketing course told them that reengaging with customers is the best way to drum up business. What that course didn't seem to tell them is that if you keep reengaging all the time, your customers start to think that you're obnoxious and dread talking to you.
There's a simple philosophy of customer service, here: if I want something, be really helpful in getting me to a "happy state" quickly and without lots of hard work. (Whether that means finding the right item, buying it easily, or returning something broken) That way I'll come to think of you as people I really like doing business with, and will keep coming back and sending my friends there. When I don't come to you, you can remind me quietly, gently and occasionally that you may have something useful; but remember that the threshold between that and "annoying" is really easy to hit.
Or in simpler terms: My time and my stress are fairly expensive things, as far as I'm concerned. The company that gets me whatever it was that I wanted without costing a lot of either is the one I'm going to buy things from.
Please buy Lexis/Nexis or Westlaw, or preferably both. Make the data free, improve the searchability (which is currently not very good), and run ads against the searches (with an option to pay to opt out of the ads).
You would fundamentally change the legal industry by leveling the playing field between high-priced corporate attorneys and their clients - who can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for legal research - and the majority of lawyers and their clients - who cannot.
You would also be releasing a huge trove of valuable data into the public domain.
And given the volume and extremely targeted nature of law-related searches, you would likely make a lot of money by running ads against those searches. And from people and institutions paying to opt out of the ad-supported model.
It would seem to be a perfect fit with Google's goal to organize the world's information. And it would make good business sense.
I've been expecting (and hoping) that Google would do something along the lines of the above for years. As a lawyer who's been frustrated with Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw - and their exorbitant rates and poor searchability - for 16 years, I hope the above is something Google is actively considering.
Wow, Vic. A few minutes ago I made a comment on your "Smartphone Whisperer" post about how Google+ integration has damaged other Google services - like Google Reader and Google Photos - and you've apparently deleted it and closed comments on that post? What's that about? Kind of bush league, don't you think?
For posterity's sake, I'll try to duplicate the content of my comment below, but I find it quite lame that you deleted my comment and then closed comments on your post. There was nothing offensive in my comment. It was a legitimate criticism of how Google+ had negatively affected the performance of certain other Google services. See below.
Last week MG Siegler manufactured (in my opinion) some big brouhaha about how Google+ censored his offensive profile pic. I thought - and continue to think - that was not a legitimate issue. I find your deleting non-offensive comments and then closing comments to be much more disturbing, and much more of a legitimate issue.
It is that kind of nonsense which made me dislike Facebook and use (and root for) Google+ in the first place. But if that is how you are going to operate, I'll consider returning to Facebook, as that's where most of my family and friends continue to hang out anyway.
Anyway, here's my original comment, as much as I can remember of it:
Right now I wish you would be the "Other Google Services that have been Damaged by Google+" Whisperer.
Google Reader - which I used to use as my primary source of news - is now effectively useless. The "sort by magic" function is broken and does not work at all. The sharing functions are now very counterintuitive and difficult to use, much less to explain to others.
Another example: Google Photos - which I have used for years to host photos for my blog and for which I pay for additional storage for - is also now awful. The most jarring example is that when I use Picasa to upload a photo to Google+ (which is now the default behavior), I cannot then even use the URL to post that photo to my blog without going through some convoluted process to manually edit the URL.
As I mentioned in the comment you deleted, I know that Google+ is of paramount importance to Google right now - as evidenced by the fact that Larry keyed your bonuses to its performance, etc., but I think you need to focus on integrating Google+ in a way that does not harm the existing Google services that we all use and depend on.
"Vic Gundotra - +Henry Webb I regularly delete comments that are off topic from my post. Sorry you found offense to that."
10:49 AM Vic, you're joking right? What comments are "on topic" for a post that consists of "My wife just called me the 'Smartphone Whisperer'."?
Look at some of the comments you chose not to delete:
"Renaud Lepage - Oo"
"Raphael Kaulitz - hahahaha ;)"
"JENNIFER MANDARINO - lol"
"Alvaro Rey - I hope she would not call you Apple Fanboy or Mr. MG Siegler"
You're the Senior VP of Social Business. I would think that a legitimate, politely worded comment from a paying Google customer about usability problems Google+ is causing with other Google services would be of interest to you - regardless of the nature of the post the comment was made in response to.
I'm not offended. I'm disappointed.
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