I despise the 8,000 pound Philadelphia gorilla known as Comcast.
I signed up for DirecTV and the guy is coming to install it today.
But picture this: On my HBO Channel, a crawl runs across the bottom of my screen with the following message:
ACTION IS REQUIRED ON YOUR PART to continue to receive HBO. As of March 28, you will no longer be able to view HBO without a digital cable box. Please contact Comcast at 1-800-COMCAST to get a digital cable box.
This message—in very large type—runs continually 24/7 during the programming and totally destroys the viewing experience.
I called 1-800-COMCAST to see what would happen and got the de rigueur recorded female voice:
Thank you for calling Comcast.
For English, Press 1
Por Espanol gibberish gibberish
For trouble with your service, press 1
For billing inquiries, press 2
To add or upgrade your current service, press 3
Transfer, downgrade or discontinue service, press 4
Nothing on this recorded menu dealt with HBO or new cable boxes. I pressed nothing. The message was repeated, and again I pressed nothing. The recorded voice came on and said, “For quality and training purposes, your call may be monitored.”
This was followed by commercials for HDTV, digital voice and an invitation to “Visit us at www.Comcast.net.”
When the telephone rep came on the line, she told me that all premium channels would be going to digital and that three new digital cable boxes would cost $1 each. This would take our monthly bill up to $140 a month, or $1,680 a year, for roughly 75 channels and high-speed Internet access.
DirecTV is 185 channels for $59.95 a month.
Comcast’s rude crawl over the HBO channel and exorbitant pricing are deal killers.
The Goofball Sales Rep From Verizon
When the Verizon FSI—with its offer of high-speed Internet for $21.99/month—arrived in my morning Inquirer, I took it up to the office and saved it. Since I was dropping Comcast cable in favor of DirecTV, why not switch to Verizon for Internet service and save another $23.
Last Friday, the phone on my desk rang. It was a nice-sounding guy from Verizon who wanted to sell me high-speed Internet. I told him that I was looking at his circular and I wanted to order. We decided I needed more horsepower than the 768Kbp on the circular and the cost would be an additional $10. I agreed to that.
“I want to take down your information,” he said, “so I can set up your account and send you the modem.”
“What do you mean, ‘send me the modem?’” I asked.
“This system connects through your regular telephone line and you need a special modem.”
“You want me to connect this thing?” I asked.
“It’s really very easy and we offer full telephone support.”
“That’s not what I do. I operate a keyboard at 75 words a minute. I am not technical. I don’t know how to connect things.”
“It’s really very simple.”
“If I buy this thing, I want someone to come up here and connect it.”
“That will cost you $150.”
“Then forget it.”
I hung up.
I live in Center City Philadelphia. Verizon trucks are around all the time. The idea that Verizon would charge me $150 for a guy to pop in for five minutes to hook up my computer and make sure everything was working was preposterous.
The Deal-Killer Avoidance Checklist
“Always make it easy to order,” said the late Elsworth Howell on my first day of work at Grolier Enterprises where he was founder and CEO. His words have been etched in my brain ever since.
One reason the dot-com boom turned into a bust was that the kids who set up the systems ignored the old rules of marketing. “This is a new medium—a new paradigm,” they told us graybeards. “We make the new rules.”
They did not know how to make an offer, ask for an order, up-sell, cross-sell, get an order shipped on time or say “thank you for your business.” Their obtuseness was astonishing, since all they had to do was copy Amazon.com, who very early on set the standard of excellence for doing business on the Web.
One rule they consistently broke was that they did not make it easy to order.
These smarty-pants kids were deal killers.
Here is the checklist:
When a new offer or promotion goes out, be set up to take orders.
When I responded to Comcast’s warning that a new kind of cable box was required, it was not mentioned on the recorded voice menu. I did not know what to do. A special 800-number should have been set up just for that offer.
Sometimes when I call an 800-number in response to an ad, the person on the other end has no idea what I am talking about.
It is not enough to simply alert in-bound telephone reps.
Everyone that answers the phone—whether in Omaha, Neb., or India—must be intimately familiar with every facet of the offer and the product or service.
They must study the object being sold—feel it, play with it, ask questions about it, get used to it—and learn to love it. Potential questions from prospects must be anticipated and answers prepared. And the reps must be rehearsed so they can give instant—very positive—replies that overcome any objections and make the prospect feel good about ordering.
If a service—such as Internet access or cable TV—is being sold, the reps must know everything about it and be able to explain it so that it makes perfect sense to their great-grandmother.
Any hesitancy, lack of knowledge or high-tech jargon on the part of a telephone rep can be a deal killer.
Empower Your Reps
When I signed up for Comcast high-speed Internet service several years ago, a guy came to the office and connected my computer. Clearly, I am not the only little old person that wants high-speed Internet and is uncomfortable about the prospect of trying to hook up a modem.
Peggy, my wife, and I have had VCRs and DVD players for 30 years and have never figured out how to program them to record stuff in our absence.
If Verizon had smarts, it would have empowered its rep to schedule a service call rather than lose the sale.
Direct Mail Deal Killers
The typical direct mail package is made up of an outside envelope, letter, circular, order device and reply envelope, sometimes supplemented by a lift piece or two and maybe a freemium (a little attention-getting goodie like a refrigerator magnet, name-and-address labels, decal or bumper sticker).
* It is imperative that the return address be on the order form. If the reply envelope is misplaced, the person will still know where to send the order.
* The toll-free 800-number should be easy to spot on every major interior element (not the outer envelope), so that when the decision to purchase is made, the reader does not have to hunt through the mailing looking for the number. That interruption in the concentration thread can be a deal killer.
* Never include a URL without testing. When I arrived to take over Target Marketing in 1995, I was sitting in a meeting when a promotions person interrupted us to show me a subscriber acquisition mailing that was about to go out for WHO’S MAILNG WHAT! I noticed the URL had been inserted on the order form and I said I wanted it deleted. I did not know why at the time, but it did not feel right.
In hindsight, it was the right decision. When a person has decided to purchase and is working with the order form, suddenly seeing the URL is an invitation to stop ordering and go online to maybe find out more information. Once a mailing is set aside, chances are that it will be covered by the sports pages and end up in the recycling bin. The order is lost. Never provide an interruption in the ordering process. Including a URL can be a deal killer.
* If you include a URL, it should not be the general landing page or home page. Some people prefer to order via the Internet. But if the prospect goes from a specific offer in a direct mail package to a corporate home page, a mental disconnect will occur. Like the Comcast voice menu that failed to mention HBO and the need for a new cable box, a home page with dozens of choices will be confusing and the thread of the promotional argument will be lost along with the prospect. Instead, any Web address given in a promotion should have a landing page that specifically picks up electronically where the print left off. Otherwise, a URL is a deal killer.
Never forget, as an Internet marketer, you are a mouse click away from oblivion.
* Never ask for a credit card number on a reply card or the response half of a double postcard. In this epoch of identity theft, always include a reply envelope when asking for the order to be charged to a credit card account. Otherwise, the credit card info will be hanging out naked for everyone along the reply mail trail to see and possibly steal. This possibility will frighten prospects and is not only a deal killer, but also bad business.
Off-the-Page Advertising Deal Killers
* Always put the return address on the order coupon—and on the ad itself. Consumers will frequently tear out a coupon and take it to their desk for an envelope and stamp, leaving the remainder of the ad with the old newspapers. If your address is not on the coupon, you have lost the order. No address on the coupon is a deal killer.
* Similarly, if the coupon has been clipped, another person seeing the ad might like to order. If the only address on the ad was on the missing coupon, the order is lost. Another deal killer.
* And—whether or not your ad has a coupon—be sure to put the 800-number in big, bold type and probably in more than one place.
The 800-number should be either at the top or the bottom of every two-page spread in big, bold, easy-to-read type. If a catalog shopper comes across an item of merchandise and wants to order it immediately, the number is right there. Forcing customers to go rummaging around in a catalog looking for the 800-number is a deal killer.