Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's the little things that matter to customers

I've been a paid subscriber to Salon for many years. And all in all, I figure it was worth it. When they launched Salon Premium in 2001 to stave off bankruptcy, they were looking for supporters and I was happy to oblige. But over the past year or two, I've found that I'm not reading the site regularly and so paying the $30 yearly fee for Premium access just started to seem like an expense I could do without.

So when Salon recently sent me a reminder that my subscription was about to expire, I decided not to renew. At the bottom of their note to me, they have this line:
If you don't plan to renew, we're very interested in understanding why. Please take a minute to drop us a line -- we take your feedback seriously:

Best regards,

Sam Porter

Salon Premium
So, since they asked, I sent them this note.
Hi -- I've been a subscriber for many years, but I'm not going to
renew this year. I get my information from all over the web. I have
hundreds of RSS feeds in my newsreader and there is rarely enough time
to go through them all. While I have enjoyed Salon and appreciate the
good stuff it offers, it's just not worth it to me to continue paying
for something I'm not using any more.
Unfortunately, they don't seem to take the feedback they get quite as seriously as they claim. Because the emails have kept on coming, each one warning me that I'm about to lose out and also inviting me to tell them why I've decided not to renew because, after all "we take your feedback seriously."

But here's what's really interesting...and something I hadn't remembered until today.

One year ago, I went through the same process. Here's what I sent to them back in March, 2007:
Hi there -- I've been a Salon subscriber for a number of years but I've decided not to renew this year.

I work in the information business as a communications consultant and I spend most of my time online. To be honest, I go through so much information on a regular basis that I just don't make much use of my Salon subscription. In the past, I've paid for it because I really support the kind of quality work you do.

But this past year has been a tough one for me and my business. I've relocated across Canada and the costs of setting up a new location, and making new connections in a different city, mean that I need to reduce expenses wherever possible.

I currently have over 800 feeds in my RSS newsreader, as well as more than 50 podcasts that I listen to regularly. In a world of information, I simply don't "need" to pay for your content.

If things improve, I may re-subscribe, but for now, I'll get my news (even if not your unique vision) elsewhere.
I've checked my records, but I can't find any record of my having paid for my Premium subscription last year. But it appears that they didn't cut me off, as they were warning me they would.

So, we'll see whether my subscription finally does get cut off this year.

But there's a lesson to be learned here for companies. If you tell people you're listening to them and you put it in writing, then you should make sure that your systems are actually set up to receive comments and react to them. It appears that Salon hasn't really paid much attention to what I've been telling them for over a year now and if I were once inclined to support them, I'm less inclined to do so now.

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