Latest technology isn't always the right technology

Above is what I see now when I try to read an article on one of my favorite websites, Lifehacker. Lifehacker is an awesome resource, providing articles on all sorts of ways to improve your daily existence. I used to read almost every article on Lifehacker in Google Reader via RSS. Not so much anymore.

A little while back something changed. I am only speculating here so if I wrong feel free to correct me. It seems to me that Lifehacker’s parent company (Gawker) changed the way files were hosted. For example, generally website images are stored on the same domain as the website. If the domain is http://www.lifehacker.com, then the images might be stored at http://www.lifehacker.com/images/. A quick peek at their code shows me that their images are now being hosted at img.gawkerassests.com/img/. Normally, this might not be a big deal, after all Gawker and Lifehacker are the same company. The problem for me is, our corporate firewall software doesn’t like it, so the software blocks any files coming from that domain (images, css scripts, javascripts) and the results are what you see in the image above.

So why the the title? The experience got me thinking. In this case, Lifehacker has lost a reader because they changed to a “new”, “better” way of doing things. Many of us in web development and information technologies scramble to implement the latest thing. Case in point, Facebook’s mobile experiment, developing with HTML5 instead of a native application. Sometimes we should make sure what we are doing is best for our customers/visitors and not so we can play with the newest toys. JS.

I can still read Lifehacker on my phone, tablet and laptop, but I don’t look at it near as much as I used to.

Update: As of noon on 10/08/2012, whatever was broken with Lifehacker is now fixed. Yahhh!. Crazy that it is was broken for months before I wrote this.

How do expectations affect our experiences?

In my last post, When your favorite brands fail you, how do you respond? What I was trying to point out is that if you expect more from a brand/company and they let you down, are you then in turn more let down? The very next day I came across a study by Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. I read about the specific study in Lifehacker’s article Budweiser, Balsamic Vinegar, and How Expectations Affect Our Views.

Terribly simplified here, in the study they offered samples of two beers, both Budweiser. One was a regular Budweiser and the other a Budweiser with a few drops of balsamic vinegar added and they give it a locally specific name. To one group they simply presented the samples and had them taste, to another group they actually told them one of the beers had balsamic in it. Once they finished the sample the tasters where given a choice of one free beer and they had to choose only one. The first group, which had no idea about the balsamic, chose the balsamic beer. The second group for the most part chose the beer without the balsamic.

I see this all the time. A perfect example for me is movies. Everyone watches movies. I know that if I go into a movie with high expectation, it might still be good, but if it is not great I’ll be let down. I go out to the movies VERY rarely, so when I do I have much higher expectations for that movie. If I buy a DVD, I have higher expectations then if it is on a movie channel.

You know you have been there. Your friends tell you, “Ahhh…you have to see this movie, it is the best”. Right? So you take a second mortgage on your home and take your significant other or friend to the theater to see it. What happens most times? FLOP! Not all the time but for me most of the time the movie can’t possible live up to the hype.

Case in point, the movie Tropic Thunder. If I recall correctly it didn’t do great in the theaters. With that brought a quick release to DVD, which we loved because it has a lot of actors that make us laugh. Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, Danny McBride amongst others. I happened across the DVD the first week it was out (on sale) and purchased it. We watched it that night…and HATED IT! We thought it was terrible. So a few months later I am flipping channels and there it is, Tropic Thunder. At the time I could find nothing better so I flipped it on…and laughed and laughed. Now whenever it is on, we are probably watching it. I know some movies grow on you but in this case it was totally my expectations and the situation that altered my experience.

My last post talked about how we raise our expectations for our favorite brands. In the study they are showing that expectation can positively and negatively effect our decision and experiences. Companies spend billions on acquiring and keeping happy customers. In my limited experience on this earth I have discovered that most people who talk about a brand or product are either really happy or really pissed. The customers that are so moved that they brag to friends and family are the best. But, how much goodwill must you build to get over that one failure and do raised expectations increases the risk of failure?

Someone out there must be smart enough to answer these questions.

QUESTION: When your favorite brands fail you, how do you respond?

big fat fail

I have been thinking about this for some time. To explain the question further, think about some of your favorite brands. Mine are easy. Maybe you like a certain energy drink, fast food restaurant, insurance provider (you know what I mean if you have USAA), or grocery store. Maybe you don’t “like” them, maybe you LOVE them. Your absolute favorite and they can do no wrong.

Whoopsy…now let’s say they screw up. Your energy drink is flat, your fast food order comes out wrong/takes too long/is cold, your insurance hassles you over a tiny claim. You get the picture right? The brand that you brag about to all your friends and family, the brand you use exclusively has let you down. What do you do?

Do you give them the benefit of the doubt? Do you brush it off? Do you maybe stop bragging so vehemently about them? Do you complain about it?

I am seriously wondering what others think. For me I suppose it depends on the let down. If Chick-fil-a forgets to put dressing in with my salad (could never happen), I am still going to love them.

Please let me know in the comments what you might do.

What brands do you think provide the best customer service?

Good customer service is a necessity for all brands, whether you are a multinational conglomerate or freelancer. It can be the difference between a loyal customer who sings your praises and a bitter customer who complains how bad you are to anyone who will listen. More than ever before, with our hyper-connected society, where John Doe can have thousand of followers on Twitter, its import to make sure you are providing the best in customer care at every opportunity. (By the way, you can argue (hopefully elsewhere) the relevancy and reach of “social networks” like Twitter and Facebook, but they do have an undeniable effect on brands.)

Duhh…right? We all know customer service is important, so what’s my point? With everyone else creating their own awards (Addy’s, Shorty’s, Grammy’s, Golden Globe(y’s), etc), I thought I would start my own award. I give you the 1st Annual Rob Davis’s Favorite Customer Service Brands sponsored by web|aggression or RDF-CSB-SBW’s for short. Seriously though, below is a list of my favorite company’s that I have NEVER had a bad customer experience with.

THE BEST
USAA (www.usaa.com) – Provides insurance and financial services to military and their dependents. Hands down the best customer services I have ever experienced. I use almost every service then provide, so I would know.

Publix (www.publix.com) – My “everyday” grocery store found mostly in the southeast, I think. If you have been to one, you know why they are on this list.

[Oops, I can’t believe I forgot them, but I was reminded by a friend!]
Chick-fil-A (www.chick-fil-a.com) – The ONLY “fast food” restaurant we eat at. the food is awesome and it comes to you fast and with friendly service. If you don’t have a Chick-fil-A near by, I am sorry.

RUNNERS UP
Total Wine (www.totalwine.com) – Provides wine, beer and in some stores liquor. They give expert advice and recommendations on wine choices. Unlike most warehouse type retail stores, none of there sales people duck and dodge to avoid a customer in need.

Whole Foods (www.wholefoodsmarket.com) – Natural and organic grocery, focused on fresh and local products. Everyone there is always smiling, except the fish monger but he has a dry sense of humor. J

As I am made this list I realized that two of the four are grocery stores. I am a foodie and I suppose I shop there more then anywhere, but interesting none the less.

So, what are your favorite customer service brands and why?