The Long OW!

July 20, 2009
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sfishmanThis is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Stephen Fishman, Director of Solution Definition and Architecture at Macquarium.

Brandon Schauer, one of my past Sapient co-workers, now works at Adaptive Path and is relatively well known in UX circles for his thought leadership. One of my favorites is The Long Wow. In brief, “the long wow is a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty through systematically impressing your customers again and again.”

Well, true to my nature, I feel compelled to point out the flip side, which I call the long OW. In brief, the long OW is a means to achieving long-term customer hatred through systematically disappointing your customers again and again.

Where long wow companies like Apple and Nike continually look for ways to express to customers how much they appreciate them through phenomenally well designed, user-centric products and services. Long OW companies like Blockbuster, the cable companies and phone companies seemingly look for ways to contemptuously exploit their customers through products and no-service processes that are equally well designed, except that the products and no-services are dollar-centric.

I understand the mindset and organizational culture that drive the long OW companies to make decisions like these. Like many American cultural aspects they are all focused on $ tomorrow. What they fail to see is the long term lasting hatred consumers have for them and the taint these business practices have on their brands that can’t be washed away.

Blockbuster is the perfect case study for this. I know, I know… I pick on Blockbuster quite often… But THIS IS EXACTLY THE POINT! Neither I, nor other consumers have forgotten the YEARS of gouging we suffered from the late-fee nazis in Blockbuster management. Even when Blockbuster’s Click & Mortar offering is VASTLY superior to every online only offering – people still choose netflix. The people who still patronize Blockbuster do it only begrudgingly and silently hope for the day when a online & meat-space combo retailer will offer something better so that they can stick it to the man REAL GOOD!

Cell phone companies and the Cable companies have paved the way for this type of business model for decades! The Cable companies were first. Having regional monopolies, the combination of easy money and little competition has created crappy behemoths of companies who really could not give a rat’s ass about how much consumers hate them. Maybe instead of focusing on churn, they should focus on the root cause – the legacy of contempt they have shown for their customers.

How can the leaders of these companies not get it? Consumers generally feel that all the options suck it’s up to them to choose the one that least sucks for them and their lifestyle.

My recommendation for these purveyors of contempt is to either:

1) Go for a “truth and reconciliation” approach in which you actually try to make legitimate amends with people who despise your organization. If you decide to do this one, you have to do more than say “sorry”, you have to show you mean it. See my past blog entry on this topic for more information.

-OR-

2) Prepare for an upstart with a clean reputation to come and eat your lunch.

Rating Time:

Long Wow companies – Like them.

Long OW companies – Garbage.

Tell em’ Large Marge Sent Ya!

Stephen Fishman is the Director of Solution Definition and Architecture at Macquarium.  He has some excellent posts on customer service at his web site, threeoptions.blogspot.com

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