Creating Virtual Ladies With Stubby Pencils
* Failed to provide ordered merchandise.
* Failed to provide ordered merchandise in a timely manner.
* Shipped merchandise that was not ordered.
* Billed consumers shipping and handling charges for incorrect merchandise.
* Issued consumers notices that threatened to refer their accounts to a collection agency if the bills for incorrect merchandise were not paid.
* Disputed consumers’ claims that incorrect items were in fact returned.
* Failed to refund consumers for merchandise that was either never received or returned.
* Advertised merchandise that was not available.
With Amazon.com’s magical service and discounted prices and a Barnes & Noble in every mall and city, the negative option book club is becoming vestigial—in the same company with buggy whips and 45-rpms.
That the back-end people at Bookspan were practicing the same customer abuse so rampant at AOL may not be surprising. Bookspan is partly owned by Time Warner, which also owns AOL. Maybe nastiness is part of the corporate culture.
About the Chart Illustration at the End of This Article
Two of the most scrupulous practitioners of back-end excellence are Prescott Kelly, proprietor of the Stamp Collectors Society of America, and his creative director, the great copywriter, Malcolm Decker. Their product: postage stamps from around the world sent on a continuity basis.
At the end of this article is the flow chart/decision tree of correspondence requirements for one of the early Stamp Collectors Society of America promotions. Each line represents a letter that must be written in response to the customer’s action.
Kelly and Decker believe that every letter (or e-mail) that goes out represents a unique opportunity to pre-sell, re-sell, up-sell or—at the very least—to further enhance and solidify the relationship with the customer. Conversely, a carelessly written letter could lose a customer. As a result, all letters are either written—or at least edited and polished—by Decker himself. In Decker’s words: