Archive for the ‘mail service’ tag
Microsoft’s new Outlook.com mail service may finally drive some much-needed innovation in email. (Disclosure: I have Microsoft stock from my time as an employee there.)
I agree. This is definitely one of the more innovative products from Microsoft. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s easy to use.
The last fundamental innovation in email was in 2004 when Gmail launched. I’ve been a Gmail user ever since.
But despite huge increases in the volume of email we deal with in the last eight years, little has been done to improve the core experience. Yes, Google launched Priority Inbox. It’s supposed to help you figure out the important mail; for me, it’s been largely useless. Scanning through my inbox, very little of what Google has marked important really is.
Google’s other major moves with Gmail have largely been about trying to exploit its huge number of mail users into whatever lame social product Google is trying to bootstrap. (Remember Buzz?)
But better email tools could improve productivity for everyone. In the current version of Outlook mail, there isn’t enough innovation to get me to switch. But the existence of a new and credible player who wants to win may drive much-needed innovation in email. Here are some core things that would get me to switch by delivering value, not by tricking people like Facebook tried to do:
Outlook’s “Quick views” feature offers a quick view of how that could happen: automatic classification of mail. The system automatically scans email for certain attributes that people look for. Oh, hey, this email looks like a shipping confirmation. And this one has a photo. And these have attachments.
That’s pretty rudimentary. But imagine that your email tool could do this:
- Separate receipts from marketing emails. I have eight years’ worth of emails from Amazon, Buy.com, Groupon, etc. Sometimes I want to look up what I purchased, or I need warranty service. Finding those receipts can be a challenge.
- Pluck out bills. Emails from American Express could be scanned for payment due date, and the date could automatically be added to my Google Calendar.
- Keep my travel top of mind. Itineraries, hotel confirmations, and rental car reservations that are upcoming would be available in a dashboard view.
- Identify emails with expiring content. Nordstrom’s anniversary sale ends August 5th. This could be put into a Quick view that becomes more prominent when the date approaches and drops out when the sale ends. Expired emails would also be downweighted in search results.
Some of the above can be done with search. For example, I can search “Buy.com receipt”. But look what happens when I do that:
I get a bunch of unrelated junk. What you can’t see is that the list isn’t complete. I’ve purchased much more from Buy.com. In order to get all of my Buy.com receipts, I have to search for “buy.com thanks for your order”.
Another way to tackle the problem is filters. I have set up numerous filters that file things like receipts, daily deal emails and the like. (You can see some of my filters in the screenshot above.) But that’s a real pain to set up and only geeks will do it.
There are vertical players that are focused on solving pieces of the problem. TripIt and Kayak will parse travel-related emails. I forward my confirmation emails to TripIt, it picks out the relevant details and creates a more consistent itinerary. It can even generate a feed of events that I plug into Google Calendar. That’s a really roundabout way of doing things. OneReceipt and Slice do this for shopping emails.
But the separate apps have little traction. It should be built into the email platform. And once it’s in a large scale system like Gmail or Outlook, emailers will have an incentive to markup the information they send to make it even more actionable.
Google has built a very lucrative business on organizing the world’s information. It should do a much better job of organizing my information.
It’s somewhat mind boggling that this far into email adoption, unsecure email is standard operating practice. Yes, there have been some improvements. Gmail uses SSL for your mailbox. That wasn’t always the case.
But if you actually send something, that email is sent unencrypted to the recipient.
Securing email has had three historical challenges: it needs to be easy for the user, it needs to be universal, and it needs to have a business model.
Early experiments like PGP, which put a lot of work on both the sender and recipient, have failed in the consumer market. But for person-to-person messaging, we’re down to a small handful of providers that matter. (Yahoo, Google and Microsoft.) Among them, they should be able to solve this problem, at least for email sent among their networks.
Secure email is also something that would help with financial transactions and could potentially cut the flood of bills that are sent via paper mail. That the post office is running ads touting that paper mail is more secure than email is ridiculous. Not because they’re wrong, but because it’s true.
Even among my more tech savvy friends, many receive paper bills because the process of getting their bill or statement from each credit card company is difficult. If you have multiple accounts, it’s even more complicated because each financial institution has its own system. There is no interface as consistent as ripping open an envelope. They also have different rules about how long they keep old statements online. All of this stuff should show up in my email box as effortlessly and more securely than it does in my regular mailbox.
Because email recipients are concentrated on a few networks, it would be possible to have direct secure transmission of these statements and account notices. Doing that would also reduce the scourge of phishing, because the mail provider could authenticate that an email came from American Express or Bank of America.
This is a service that banks should be willing to pay for, both because it reduces their operational costs (mailing and printing statements) and because it reduces fraud liabilities (phishing.) Even at 5 cents per secure communication, it’d be a bargain.
Not only does this increase productivity, it’s better for the environment. The people who lose out are postal workers, especially the guy who’s job it is to convince banks that they should use paper statements instead of email. (I’m not making that up. Talk about a Sisyphean task.)
Will any of this happen? A guy can hope. And there’s nothing like real competition to help drive it.
If someone is willing to add these features, I will jump ship from Gmail. I would even go back to my Yahoo mail account.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Continuing its rollout of updated and revamped services, Microsoft today is releasing a preview of its upcoming mail client reboot. Outlook, as it will be called going forward, is a fresh take on a dated service (cough: Hotmail) that some people still use.
So what’s new in Outlook? A cleaner design for more content, social network (Facebook, Twitter and soon Skype) integration, and 7GB of free cloud storage are just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft has stripped out ads from personal email accounts and even figured out a way to manage those dreaded newsletters we all sign up for but can’t figure out how to unsubscribe from. (Yes, there are others who do this but Microsoft isn’t really going after email power users.)
Over the next few months (possibly year(s)), Hotmail users will be prompted to upgrade to the new Outlook. Watch the video for a high-level rundown of the new service. We weren’t given access to the new service ahead of time, so there may be loads of new features other than the ones listed above.
Sign up for the preview at Outlook.com and grab your preferred handle now!
Here’s more evidence that Netflix is slowly chipping away at traditional TV viewing. According to a public Facebook post by CEO Reed Hastings, Netflix subscribers watched a total of 1 billion hours of video for the first time in June. Do a little back-of-the-envelope math, and that comes out to more than an hour of video per subscriber each day.
The post was meant as a pat on the back for Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, who’s spent the last several years licensing content for the company’s streaming service. Hastings wrote:
Congrats to Ted Sarandos, and his amazing content licensing team. Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June. When House of Cards and Arrested Development debut, we’ll blow these records away. Keep going, Ted, we need even more!
The milestone comes as Netflix is trying to right the ship after a few missteps last year. After announcing plans to split apart and rebrand its DVD-by-mail service — and then rescinding those plans — the company lost subscribers in the last year’s third quarter. Since then, it’s been working to repair its brand image, and apparently succeeding.
Netflix ended the first quarter with more than 26 million subscribers worldwide, which was a new high for the company and more than 1.5 million above the number it had in the fourth quarter of last year. More importantly, its subscribers are engaged and watching a ton of video on the service.
It’s not clear how many subscribers it ended the second quarter with, as Q2 earnings are likely later this month. But if we use the 26 million number as a baseline, 1 billion hours of video viewed during the month roughly translates to about an hour, hour-fifteen per subscriber per day.
Considering the average viewer in the U.S. watches about five hours of TV a day, that’s a huge number worth watching. After all, there are only so many hours in a day, and if a Netflix subscriber is tuning in to an hour of video on the service, that likely means one less hour of actual live TV he or she is watching.
While there are some significant changes, there’s nothing that should stop third-party developers from adding value for subscribers looking to access the service through mobile, web, or other connected device applications.
The biggest change to the API is that Netflix will no longer share its rental history with third-party developers. That includes movies that Netflix users have streamed or received through its DVD-by-mail service. According to the blog post, the company will continue to support third-party application developers, but “do so in a way that is aligned with our broader objectives.”
In the Goodfil.ms blog post, the company suggests that if you build a Netflix app, you won’t be able to charge for it. But a Netflix spokesperson says there’s a key distinction between how the Netflix API is being used in applications that are sold directly to consumers versus those that attempt to resell that technology to others. Netflix is not trying to stop companies like InstantWatcher or Fanhattan from creating commercially viable businesses based on surfacing its titles through their services and charging consumers for them.
It’s mainly attempting to stop developers from becoming middlemen that resell its API technology to other companies. So a Fanhattan iPad app sold to consumers is OK, but licensing out its white-label search and discovery platform to a consumer electronics manufacturer is not. That is, unless it doesn’t want to include Netflix titles in the search.
The big trend here is that providing access to Netflix’s streaming service is OK, but the company is pulling some proprietary data back behind the curtain. Want to show users which movies their friends have liked by hooking up with Facebook Connect, and forward them to Netflix? That’s fine. But you won’t be able to repurpose Netflix’s own viewership or recommendation data for use in your own app. For most developers that hook into Netflix’s API, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Gmail seems to be suffering from a bit of downtime this morning. Most of us here at TechCrunch haven’t been able to log in to our accounts and the reports on Twitter seem indicate that this issue is affecting users worldwide. On its app status dashboard, Google confirms that it is aware of this issue and that it will provide more information shortly.
Update: Google just provided an update. The company says that the issue is currently affecting less than 2% of Google Mail’s users. It will provide more updates by 11:18am PT.
Update 2: Google now says that “Google Mail service has already been restored for some users” and that it expects a full resolution for all users “in the near future.”
— Gmail (@gmail) April 17, 2012
According to Google, the service disruption began at around 9:42am PT this morning. There is currently no ETA for when the issue will be resolved.
The current downtime seems to be affecting both regular Gmail users as well as those with paid Google Apps accounts. Google is calling this issue a “service disruption” and not an “outage,” so some users are probably still able to access their accounts.
Video rental service Neflix may soon see a dip in its stock value thanks to a downgrade by Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente.
Netflix had a particularly rocky 2011, with a 60 percent price hike on combined streaming-and-DVD rental plans and a failed plan of splitting Netflix into two companies. The company was punished with a loss of more than half of its stock price. The stock appeared to have rebounded slightly in the last quarter with a better-than-expected subscriber growth boost.
DiClemente cited rising costs and a number of emerging competitors as the main reasons for its lower stock rating.
“Amazon Prime’s [streaming video on demand] offering could eventually be carved out as a stand-alone product that would compete more directly with Netflix for subscribers. Likewise, Comcast’s recently announced Streampix service could eventually be offered … as another direct competitor to Netflix,” he wrote in a report published today.
It’s very unlikely that Amazon will ever spin off its streaming service into a standalone product, as VentureBeat has previously outlined. And DiClemente’s suggestion that Comcast’s Streampix could become a direct competitor would be more accurate if the service wasn’t tethered to an expensive monthly cable subscription. But, as he suggests, that could change over time.
In terms of rising costs, Netflix went from spending 12 percent of its total revenue on streaming content in 2010, to spending nearly 50 percent in 2012, DiClemente cites. If you factor in that the company is spending money on streaming licenses in two new markets (Latin America and the U.K./Ireland) in addition to its domestic and Canadian service, those costs aren’t really that big of a deal. I’d imagine if Netflix decided to launch its DVD-by-mail service in new markets, that percentage would be quite a bit lower.
“While rising digital content costs are not surprising given Netflix’s shift to a streaming-only company,” DiClemente said, “we believe Netflix’s mounting off-balance-sheet obligations add a greater level of risk to future earnings and liquidity in 2013 and beyond, which will have to be supported through continued subscriber growth.”
Another big risk for Netflix, DiClemente said, is in the company’s expansion into international markets. The company can’t afford to fail in either of its two new international markets without seeing serious repercussions on its business as a whole. Also, both the U.K. and Latin American markets already have Amazon-owned LoveFilm, which will make success even harder to achieve for Netflix.
Dish beat analysts’ estimates by adding 22,000 new subscribers and boosting earnings to $313 million, compared to $252 million during the same period a year ago. The company’s revenue also increased to $3.63 billion or 13 percent compared to last year.
Dish purchased the ailing, bankrupt video rental company for $228 million back in April with the intent of integrating Blockbuster’s streaming and DVD-by-mail service into its television subscription business. Dish customers get a free three-month trial of the Blockbuster service, which allows them access to over 100,000 streaming videos and one physical disc rental at a time. After that it’s $10 per month added to the existing television service bill.
And while the recent quarterly earnings show the success of this strategy, Dish executives told investors it’s planning to close a third of Blockbuster’s brick-and-mortar retail store locations when their leases expire later this year. The news isn’t exactly surprising as retail stores don’t fit into Dish’s business strategy and face increased competition from RedBox’s DVD and Blu-ray rental kiosks.
Other traditional television providers are increasingly taking notice of how streaming video services are impacting their customer growth. Earlier this week, Comcast announced its own streaming video service Streampix that will be exclusively to existing subscribers (in some cases for free). But without the well known branding that Dish’s Blockbuster service has, its uncertain if Streampix will deliver the same kind of results for Comcast.
Dish executives also discussed the company’s plans to enter the wireless internet market as a way to further diversify the business and grow revenue. Last year, Dish made a bid to acquire wireless spectrum company TerreStar for $1.4 billion. However, the deal is still awaiting approval by the Federal Communication Commission, which should reach a verdict by March 12. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said the company predicts an 80 percent chance of succeeding in the wireless space if the FCC approves the deal.
Photo via trebomb
Despite nearly a year of mostly ignoring its DVD-by-mail rental side of the business, Netflix has decided to start allowing people to choose a DVD-only subscription option, the company announced on its blog today.
The option to choose a subscription package that included only DVD rentals disappeared last year as part of the company’s push toward a streaming future, and was the first in a series of wrong turns the company made. In July, the video rental company decided to raise subscription rates by 60 percent on its DVD-by-mail service, which caused a huge uproar among its 25 million monthly subscribers. Then in September, CEO Reed Hastings announced that the company was spinning off its DVD-by-mail business into a separate company called Qwikster — a move that caused an even bigger customer backlash. After plenty of negative criticism and a significant dip to its stock price, Netflix decided to cancel its plans for Qwikster.
Netflix’s argument for wanting to get away from DVDs is mostly logical from a business perspective. The cost to ship DVDs continues to rise as does the prices of the DVDs and Blu-ray discs over time due to wear and tear. Streaming, on the other hand, doesn’t have shipping costs and will eventually become the dominant form of how people watch movies and TV shows.
Of course, there are plenty of Netflix customers who don’t have access to high-speed internet, and plenty of others that actually enjoy getting DVDs due to extras like audio commentaries, deleted scenes, etc. That said, it’s incredible Netflix waited this long to give people back their DVD-only subscription option.
[Photo via Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar]
Social media can be tricky. If you do a million things well, they may go unnoticed. But if you make just one bad mistake — just one — you can be the source of criticism for months, and maybe even years, to come. You’ll probably even have quite a bit of crisis communication and damage control on your hands. Want to learn what to avoid before your company repeats history? Keep reading about these 7 social media sob stories and how to prevent the same things from happening to you.
Netflix Decides to Launch Qwikster
Netflix got a lot of heat after it decided to launch Qwikster, whose purpose was to separate Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service from its online streaming service. While launching Qwikster would’ve been a big mistake in itself because users who wanted both DVDs by mail and online streaming would’ve had to create a separate account for each of the two services, Netflix’s social media strategy was completely off as well. When users tried to follow @Qwikster on Twitter, they found a user who talked about drugs and cursed a lot. Even though he wasn’t associated with Netflix, a bad name and poor judgment became associated with the Netflix brand as a result.
How do you avoid this?
The only redeeming quality of the whole scenario is the fact that Netflix decided to change its mind after all the backlash, and it never actually launched Qwikster. But the social media lesson is this: Before deciding on a name for your new company, product, or service, search for it on Google. Is the domain for that name already taken? What are the social media accounts associated with it? Even though it may have seemed obvious to people that Netflix wasn’t associated with someone tweeting about drugs, it still irresponsible for the brand to use that name. If you are set on the specific name, see if you can purchase the domain or account from whoever owns it. If not, it’s probably a better idea to come up with an original name before the social media backlash starts.
There are tons of examples of companies that have chosen other Twitter usernames that weren’t necessarily their exact company name to avoid a situation like this. For example, Chipotle uses @ChipotleTweets instead of @Chipotle to make sure people know it’s the official account for the company. Just be sure to promote your official social media accounts at the launch of your company so it’s clear which account belongs to you. Additionally, it’s tricky, but if you are able to get Twitter to verify your account, it is helpful to show the public who is officially tweeting on behalf of the company.
@KennethCole Tweets a Hurtful Joke
@KennethCole used the uprising in Cairo to promote its spring collection, as shown in the tweet below. People were appalled that Kenneth Cole himself would use such poor judgment and leverage a sensitive situation as a promotional tool. The disaster in Egypt was a serious matter, and it shouldn’t have been joked about by a brand.
How do you avoid this?
It may seem cliché, but you need to think before you tweet. Don’t use a disastrous situation as an angle to promote your products. Don’t use someone’s death as a way to promote your products. Your ground rule should be not to use anything that could potentially be hurtful to people to promote your product.
CVS Launches a Private Twitter Account
Following the examples of many other companies that provide customer service on Twitter, CVS launched the Twitter account, @CVS_Cares. The purpose of social media is to be transparent and connect with people, even if they are not necessarily your followers yet. But when CVS launched its new Twitter account, its tweets were protected, meaning only that only people who CVS approved could follow their tweets, and its tweets weren’t made publicly available. In other words, CVS had to approve everyone who wanted to follow them.
How do you avoid this?
All of your social media accounts should be available and accessible for the public. Never make your tweets private, disable comments on your Facebook wall, or limit engagement in any other way in social media. Not only does something like protected tweets add more work for your company since you’ll have to accept all requests from users who want to see your tweets, but it will also frustrate people who are unable to see your content until you are both connected. Furthermore, it will prevent your account from gaining any sort of traction, and it will also prevent you from generating the reach you want to build in social media. One of the main purposes of having a presence in social media is to be accessible to your audience, and being private takes that accessibility away.
So who’s doing it right? Comcast was one of the first companies to offer customer service on Twitter with its @ComcastCares account. The purpose of this account is to handle complaints and support requests from Comcast customers. Bill Gerth, the manager of the account, spends his time responding to various requests. He remains completely transparent and epitomizes what people are looking for in social media. Now, Comcast has a whole slew of Twitter accounts owned by various Comcast support reps to handle the volume of support tweets it receives.
McDonald’s Twitter Hashtag Gets Abused
While we are on the subject of ghastly Twitter mistakes, let’s take a look at something a popular fast food restaurant did recently. McDonald’s launched #McDStories as a way to share fun stories about people’s experience at McDonald’s. What McDonald’s didn’t foresee was people sharing negative stories about the McDonald’s brand, and that’s exactly what happened. Anyone who searched for “McDStories” immediately saw thousands of tweets similar to the one below, which described awful experiences users had with McDonald’s.
— Laura Goldman (@lauragoldman) February 4, 2012
How do you avoid this?
Before choosing a hashtag that will frame your campaign, check to see what (if anything) people are already using that hashtag for. Also think about the other ways people could possibly interpret the hashtag. A fast food chain, especially one that has experienced controversy and negativity toward its brand in the past, should understand that it will have quite a few naysayers willing to speak out against their brand. Offering them an easy way to voice their discontent is never a good idea. Instead, McDonald’s could’ve used other methods it had more control over for distributing positive stories about its brand such as publishing positive testimonials and customer stories on its website instead of using a free-for-all public platform.
ModCloth on the other hand, is an example of a brand using hashtags the right way. The clothing retailer started a Twitter contest for Valentine’s Day and asked followers to use the hashtag #sweetsongs to turn their favorite songs into a candy-related song.
— Brittney Guest (@BrittneyGuest) February 15, 2012
The contest was well received and elicited many tweets throughout the day. It also remained on-brand, as ModCloth uses short, cute phrases similar to the ones being tweeted to describe its merchandise.
HabitatUK Takes Advantage of Unrelated Trending Topics
@HabitatUK wanted to get more followers, so it decided to take advantage of trending topics. However, instead of relating its tweets to some of the more popular trending topics, it hijacked popular hashtags such as #Apple and #iPhone in order to show up in people’s Twitter searches. Habitat’s tweets had nothing to do with Apple or the iPhone, but its tweets still showed up in searches for these hashtags.
How do you avoid this?
It’s a great idea to include trending topics in your tweets, but only if the content of your tweets are relevant. As @HabitatUK learned, its brand was hurt when people started calling them out for their spammy behavior. Since then, the company has learned to only use trending topics when they’re applicable to their tweets.
Fast Company, on the other hand, is great at utilizing proper hashtags on Twitter. In the example below, Fast Company uses hashtag #infographics when its tweets about an infographic. The rule of thumb should be, if you’re providing more people with valuable content by using a hashtag, then use it. In this case, people who are interested in great infographics can learn more about them through this tweet.
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) February 15, 2012
Burger King Launches a Facebook Contest
Burger King started a Facebook contest called the “Whopper Sacrifice.” If a user de-friended 10 of their Facebook friends, they would get a coupon for a free Whopper. This caused a lot of dismay and confusion because Facebook is about connecting with your friends, and this campaign encouraged people to connect with fewer people. It also violated Facebook users’ expectation of privacy, causing Facebook to shut down the campaign.
How do you avoid this?
Looking for an example of an effective Facebook campaign? The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago launched a virtual campaign called 80 Seconds, in which users would connect their Facebook accounts to the campaign and watch as photos they had uploaded to Facebook were virtually burned. The campaign went viral because it effectively showed people the dangers of house fires in a powerful, yet social way.
Ketchum Offends its Biggest Client
One of public relations/marketing agency Ketchum’s biggest clients is none other than shipping giant FedEx, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee. So the morning before a client meeting with FedEx, when one of the Ketchum’s vice presidents tweeted about how he would die if he had to live in Memphis, needless today, FedEx was infuriated.
How do you avoid this?
When you post updates in social media, you need to remember all of the stakeholders that are important to your company. That may include customers/clients, partners, investors, or the press. Don’t be stupid. Be careful not to publicly tweet or share anything offensive or something that could be taken the wrong way. You may not be tweeting/sharing from your business’ corporate account, but you will still be held responsible for your company’s reputation.
What other rookie social media mistakes have you seen business make?
Photo Credit: nimbu
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In recent months, Netflix made big changes to its service offerings. First, a 60-percent price hike, then an announcement that it was spinning its DVD mail service into a new company called Qwikster, and finally a decision not to split off its DVD service after all. Whatever you think of the changes, I think most of us agree that Netflix could have handled things a bit differently in terms of communications and customer experience.
Change is necessary for almost any business. In fact, two of the most important jobs of any marketer are to anticipate customer needs as they evolve over time, and then translate those emerging needs into the next thing you do for customers. Change can be positive and very profitable if these two jobs are done well. If not—as I believe we have in this case with what Netflix did—change can be stressful for customers and shareholders (and you).
With that, let’s take a closer look at a few of Netflix’s missteps—and lessons you can take away, as marketers, and use in your day-to-day work:
1. Leading with a price change. A 60-percent price increase was the first of many changes Netflix customers would hear about. Ouch. Right off the bat, customers were riled up. Although the reality that the 60-percent increase translated to just a few dollars more per month for most customers, the problem was that customers began to re-evaluate the value of Netflix’s service. Lesson: Carefully consider where price increases fall on the timeline of announcing business changes.
2. Failing to explain why in an authentic way. Prices often change for goods and services, but when times are tough, people want an explanation for price increases. To be fair, Netflix did write a detailed blog post on the changes. However, had they offered more insight into why the changes were happening in the first place, customers may have been more understanding and accepting. One possible reason it could have pointed to: Netflix’s licensing payments for content have become more expensive. Lesson: Be authentic. Most customers will understand business decisions if they are given a full explanation. And, don’t be afraid to provide more detail to your customers—it will help them better understand the change.
3. Losing sight of customer effort. When Netflix announced it was creating a second entity, Qwikster, it split its core services into two separate businesses. Let’s look at this from the customer perspective: One day, there’s one company handling all your entertainment content needs, and the next day, there are two companies. Customer translation: Two bills, two websites, two account logins, and two customer service numbers. Whose life was made easier by this decision? Netflix simply lost sight of its promise of convenience and effort in its target customer experience. Lesson: Every decision you make should be driven by the clearly defined, ideal version of your customer experience. Plain and simple.
4. Forgetting why your business exists. When Netflix launched and later added instant streaming, it filled a need for customers who wanted any media, at any time, through one service. By splitting into two companies, Netflix lost track of the problem they originally solved for their customers. The company literally moved backwards. Lesson: Remember the original need your business filled for your customers—the offering that made you successful in the first place. Even as your business changes and evolves, don’t stray from that mission.
5. Falling into the trade-off trap. Netflix made massive operational changes, and in doing so, short-shrifted their customers’ experience. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition, though. Does it take more planning and thoughtfulness to achieve both? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Lesson: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking operational excellence and customer experience is a tradeoff. You can have both. Top performers in any industry know this.
6. Leaving your customers behind. Netflix has always been ahead of the curve, but this time they were leaping a bit too far ahead of its customers. There will likely come a day when everyone will be streaming, and DVDs will fall by the wayside; but we’re not quite there yet. The infrastructure for streaming is simply not available to all consumers. In addition, not enough in-demand, “hot” content is available via streaming from Netflix (or anywhere for that matter). Netflix’s aim to solve an emerging need for anytime, anywhere streaming is smart and spot on. It just executed too early. Lesson: Be careful not to move your customers to a future they can’t have yet. You can make a good decision—just make it at the right time.
One thing Netflix did right: They recognized that it wasn’t worth pushing a bad plan forward and decided not to split the company in two (although they did keep the increased prices). They didn’t avoid a few bruises, though. The company lost 800,000 subscribers in Q3.
What did you take away from the Netflix debacle? What lessons did you learn?