Monday, June 30, 2008

Fictionwise online eBook shop -- Re: Response for Support Ticket #63465

Uh... Lynn...?

If you received this response from a customer support person, would you be happy?

Lynn's response

We very much appreciate your suggestions for titles. We're working
with publishers now to get as many as possible.


Would you be filled with confidence that the company you're dealing with has your best interests at heart?

I'd like to make a recommendation. Please pretend you didn't just send me your non-answer, and let's try again, okay?

I'm going to write you a possible answer that you're welcome to copy and paste right back to me. I'm also going to do you the service of analyzing WHY my response would be better than yours. And to refresh your memory, I'm going to quote my request to you. Now pretend it's YOU asking Fictionwise for the book below...

Roy's query:

This is really just a request. I
would love it if you could sell me
a copy of THE BIG PICTURE by
Dennis Littky. I'd prefer a
MobiPocket copy, cos then I'd be
able to read it on my phone. But I
suspect it's only around in an
Adobe format.

Thanks for running an awesome
book-selling establishment. I'm
really glad I stumbled on you
guys as my introduction to

Blue skies, love, Roy

Roy's suggested rewrite of Lynn's non-response:

Dear Roy

Thank you very much for your request. And thanks also for asking us to sell you this book. That's really kind of you. What's even MORE kind of you is that you've chosen to spend approximately US$150 with us since you joined just a few weeks ago. I hope you're loving the books you've purchased so far!

The book you're asking for -- THE BIG PICTURE by Dennis Littky -- is currently not in our stock-list, as you've already seen.

I made some enquiries, and I've noticed that several other eBook companies sell the electronic version of it. Which means it IS available. I know you're probably itching to purchase the book. I really hope that you'll be able to hold on a little while before making a decision to use one of the other merchants...

If you're willing to wait a week, one of our procurement people will be negotiating with the publisher of the book to place it in your Fictionwise Bookshelf. If we're unable to conclude our negotiation to your satisfaction within this coming week, I'll be giving you a free 100% rebate on the next three books you purchase with us.

In fact, because you've already waited three days for a response to your initial query, we've placed US$5 in your Micropay account. No strings attached.

I understand that you'd like the book in MobiPocket format. However, I'm almost certain that it's only available as a secure Adobe PDF. We WILL look into making a conversion of the book for you. It may very well be out of our hands, as the publisher controls the rights to the format a book is allowed to be released in.

I really hope you'll be happy with the steps we've taken to address your query.

Please feel free to make use of the US$5 deposited in your Micropay account! And we look forward to getting back to you within a week with news about a solution.

Thanks very much for your query.

Yours sincerely,
Fictionwise Support Team

Roy's analysis of why his rewrite works better:
  1. It uses the customer's first name, something that the service representative has access to, regardless of whether or not the customer signed off with that name. People are human. We want to be dealt with as people. We're not numbers.
  2. The paragraph detailing how much money this customer has spent in the past serves many purposes. It shows that the customer service person has actually looked into this customer's history. The customer feels acknowledged. It shows that the company actually values his custom. Finally, it's a chatty way of starting a conversation with the customer. It shows that it's one person communicating with another.
  3. This is an acknowledgement of the title that was requested, and it verifies that the company does not have the title in stock. This gives the customer peace-of-mind that he or she didn't just miss the title somehow. This is very much akin to the waiter in a restaurant repeating the order, word-for-word, to ensure that the customer KNOWS that her request was heard.
  4. This paragraph acknowledges that the customer is not an idiot. OF COURSE the customer has searched the web for other stockists of the book. OF COURSE he knows it's available elsewhere. He's CHOSEN to come back to the company he's spent his dollars with. He has his reasons. He WANTS to do business with this company. If you don't acknowledge this, you'll probably lose this customer. This paragraph shows the customer that you understand and recognise his loyalty. And it asks him to be patient.
  5. Here, we go into the 'what's in it for me' portion of the service response. In this case, offering a three-book 100% rebate is a powerful way of encouraging this customer to spend more with the company. It reinforces his buying habits. If he buys three books, and gets his money back on them, he's going to buy another three. That's SIX books that he purchases for the price of a sliver of the markup of three of them. You win. He wins.
  6. The US$5 freebie is not COSTING Fictionwise an actual five dollars. It's costing them ONLY the markup on whatever the customer purchases with that money. Cos it's not REAL money. It's reward money. For the customer, however, it's ACTUAL money that he doesn't have to spend. He glows. Fictionwise glows. Win-win.
  7. The next paragraph addresses a specific query that the customer made... the MobiPocket vs Adobe PDF question. It shows that this eBook seller is aware of the issue, and has investigated it. This client feels delighted that ANY effort has been made to secure the book in the format of his choice. But he's also been very clear in his original query that he's willing to accept it in Adobe format. He explicitly states that he'd PREFER it in MobiPocket format. This means that this part of his query MUST be answered. Silence means you don't know and don't care.
  8. The next line is an invitation to the customer to continue the dialogue. The customer service representative is wrapping up the query, and keeping channels open.
  9. This next line reminds the customer that he has received a five dollar freebie, and reassures him that an answer will be forthcoming within a stated time period. If this is unacceptable to him, he'll simply buy the book elsewhere. But he'll DEFINITELY be coming back to Fictionwise for other purchases. Because they've treated him very well indeed.
  10. The next lines are simply courtesy closes. They serve the purpose of satisfying the ritual end of the conversation.
I don't know about you, but I would be a MUCH happier customer receiving the rewrite than I am right now. Right now, I'm pretty much deciding to cash out my Micropayment account and moving my business elsewhere.

The customer service agent has the power to fix this. And it's NOT about freebies. It's about being heard.

Lynn... your initial answer is a textbook example of what not to say to someone ASKING you to business with your company.

I urge you to consider this letter in a positive light. And I hope you'll treat my request more seriously the second time around. I do in fact NEED that book. I don't merely 'want' it. I REQUIRE it.

Blue skies

Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director
Contracting to BLUE MOON as a Creative Director & 'Wild Card'

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Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
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  1. Yes, 'your' Lyn is doing a much better customer service job at selling. But the 'other' Lyn is short and to the point, perhaps a bit too much. But if I make a purchase, do I really want to read all this from a customer rep? I like it short and sweet, especially over the net where the friendly face is missing to give me a reason to stay on.

  2. Hiya Thomas...

    Nope. Your analysis is premised on her email being a selling email.

    It was not.

    Her email was in response to a query from me about the availability of a SPECIFIC book, named in the query, which IS available at other eBook merchants.

    The idea that something needs to be 'short and to the point' is only valid when a marketer is attempting to engage my attention in the first place.

    This is a support query, which presumes already-established interest.

    In fact, I was SO interested in purchasing from them that I was willing to delay my purchase until they got back to me.

    In the end, I purchased a paper copy of the book via

    Her response was a dismal failure in terms of support protocol. Specially given that I'm a high-spending customer at the Fictionwise shop.

    Blue skies


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