Home > Customer Service, eCommerce, PR > The cost of maltreating web customers

The cost of maltreating web customers

I first saw an ad on the tube for mondaytofriday.com in September 2009. The MD tells me that it apparently cost £20,000, including production, to appear just once in every 4th carriage for just 14 days – Wow.

These guys have a genius idea – a niche lodger finding (room rental) site for people who work in London but live far enough outside that they only want to stay there during the working week. Hence the name. But goodness me, don’t use the site or give them your money. Better to create your own improved version and you could have a hit on your hands.

I have a spare room i’m looking to rent, so, soon after in October 2009 I created an ad. It cost me £30 but not before i wrote to the company to get some reassurances that the tube ads would continue (“they wont” they said); that the ad would be guaranteed to be shown to a certain number of people (“no” they said); finally that if i wasn’t happy i could get some kind of money back (“no” again).

Gut instinct told me not to trust these guys – i don’t trust anyone who’s not willing to back up their service with a  promise. I should have stopped there but here’s the problem – they are the only site that offers this service. So I foolishly went ahead.

Adding my ad was tough:

  • formatting is limited,
  • you can only upload one picture (if i’m going to live somewhere for a while i want to see more than just a pretty bedspread)
  • and best of all: your ad has to be manually moderated before it appears which can take up to 24 hours…
  • …even if you are only changing a spelling mistake or changing the price!

Customer service is rude and stubborn: it feels to me like these ladies are grasping onto the tiny revenues they earn and any constructive feedback is met with defensive arguments as to why it should be broken instead of thanks for valuable (and cost free) feedback.

My ad has nearly run its course now… during the 3 months it has been returned in a few thousand search results but only viewed 179 times. That’s 16p per impression!! I could buy 1000 impressions from Google AdWords for that price.  So they are nearly 6 times more expensive.

So i wrote again to the company asking for reassurance that they’d extend my advert – especially in light of my initial call. However, my earlier instinct had been right: i just got a rude email telling me why they wouldn’t be renewing my ad for free: “because just like a newspaper we can’t guarantee results“. This is a classic schoolboy error: They’re justifying the problem instead of solving it!

I said i was unhappy with this response and surprisingly a few days later got an email from the MD. Bingo! i thought – she will see sense and apologise. She didn’t. For another half hour i was being told about the importance of PR and that she saw no reason to extend my ad.

“But my room is still empty – your service has failed. SURELY if you believe in your service you would give your eye-teeth to ensure i can’t leave until i see some success?”

“No, but we can talk about it again nearer the time.”

The reason these guys are in business is that they acted on the idea first. The people running mondaytofriday currently are destined to fail because they haven’t grasped the number one rule of eCommerce: you have to delight your customers.  All they had to do at not cost to themselves was say, “Yes Mr. Hughes we see that’s a problem and we’ll be delighted to extend your ad until the room is rented.” . But they didn’t. They’ve took a small PR issue and instead of flipping it into a PR win they’ve chosen (actively *chosen*!) to leave the problem outstanding.

So here’s a challenge to budding internet startup entrepreneurs, the members of the tribe that follow Seth Godin:

  1. Visit mondaytofriday.com, then
  2. completely redesign their awful user interface
  3. Create Marketing tools for landlords using social networks
  4. In a heartbeat become the UK’s number one market for medium-term weekday tenants.

Let me know how it goes.

Geoff

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Categories: Customer Service, eCommerce, PR
  1. Rob
    January 28, 2010 at 14:51

    Geoff, great post – I’d be keen to hear of any responses you get from the owners. Anyone who’s set up somthing like this and spend that amount of money on it can’t be stupid, so it’s a surprising way to be treated.

    I’ve posted further on the subject here

    http://rjysolutions.co.uk/2010/01/online-communities-and-business-models/

    If you want to have a read

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