Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's the SERVICE, stupid!

Man, I'm steamed. OK, maybe it's a small thing... but I'm still steamed.

I get two copies of a well-known news magazine and I only need ONE! This has been happening for a few months and I've called and written them to PLEASE fix it. Does it ever get fixed? What do you think?

I guess I get peeved about stuff like this because WE'RE PUBLISHERS. I mean to say, that if you are a PUBLISHER and you are going to PUBLISH a something, then I expect you to KNOW the technology or distribution... or at least something about it. It's part of the 'skill set' of being a publisher. Most of us don't know how a web press works, or the fine points of CYMK... but we know something about them... and we know whom to ask and what to ask.

So when the magazine has a problem they can't or won't solve, then it's time to change. That's how we in the small press would deal with printers.... I'm sure that's how you (all) would deal with me and our JAYA123 service (see how I slipped that in??? :-) What if JAYA had constant problems or lots of downtime... yet I tell everyone that I'm an expert in computer technology? What are you going to think of me?

The magazine is an EXPERT in publishing. Thus, when I get 2 (sometimes 3) copies of the rag each week for months and months.... and I've POLITELY written to them about the problem and NEVER get any response.... well it makes me wonder.

To me a player is only as good as his or her last game. Why are guys like D. Poynter and S.Horowitz, and T&S, and Data R., and M&G, and M. Gilliland, and Midpoint, and M. Long, and B. Kerrigan held in high regard as vendors? Because they don't drop the ball too often and when they do, they acknowledge it and work their butts off to make sure they don't screw up again.

I'm just on a tear about bad service from people that I expect really good service from. I'm just sick of it. I'm sick of the "We got your money now so who cares about you" attitude. And I'm sick of calling customer service to someone I pay good money to each month and getting a "script reader" in Bombay who doesn't know his or her ass from a kumquat (or whatever the hell they eat in India!)

So is this a bad thing? Yes it is. But it's also a good thing!

I'm more convinced than ever that we are heading into what will be a golden age for small business. I think people are tired of the "Wall-Martization" of everything. It's not just price. People are starved for good service.

Case in point. At 4 PM yesterday (Friday) I was about ready to wrap up my day in the office. Phone rang and it was Peter D. from Silverback Books ( They are a big JAYA123 user... they have 3 logins for 2 employees and a fulfillment center in Kansas. They have about 100 titles and do about $2 million a year gross. (And you thought JAYA was just for the small-fry?) [Note: they have given me permisison to state the above stats. We would never ever say anything to anyone about a Jaya123 client without express permission]

Peter says that there is a problem with the Rep Commission report. So instead of going to the country club to work out (so I'm 'buffed' for BEA's book-babes), I fired up the local copy of JAYA to see if I could replicate the problem.

And yes, there WAS a problem with the report. It took me about 20 minutes to find and fix it and put it out on the server. I emailed Peter. He calls back and he is just stunned that anyone would fix or could fix or even be willing to fix a problem that was important to him at that moment (most folks don't have sales reps so it is not a heavily used report... he was trying to close his accounts for the month.)

He was incredulous. It just blew him away that I dropped everything and DID what he's PAYING me for.... to run the damn service! Yeah. It's supposed to be error-free. That's what I advertise. That's what people give me their money for. So what is the issue? He expected "Bombay service."

Peter is going to go to BEA and he is going to tell ALL of his publisher friends about JAYA123 and the good service I gave him, yada, yada. And so will our own Florrie K. of Patria.... because I've provided her with good service as well (she's a blonde book-babe so you have to expect that she will run into (and cause!)lots of computer problems!!)

My point is that we CAN compete with the big guys.

Hey, I go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with Intuit's Quickbooks on The Web. Do you think for one minute that anyone at Intuit would fix your problem, or add a new feature, within hours... much less days or weeks? Damn right they won't!

But I'll bust my butt for you... and THAT dear friends is what will be the key to survival for small businesses.

I don't know how applicable it is to publishers.... as we don't have that much customer contact... but if you publish non-fiction and can somehow adopt the Poynter model of surrounding your book biz with added services (you publish bicycle books so maybe you should open a bike repair shop or sell bike parts on the web?) the lesson is clear. You can compete with the "Intuits" of the world by getting a bit of press.... working your butt off... and letting your happy customers get the word out.

It's not enough to have a good product. "It's the service, stupid." They don't teach that at Wharton. I don't think there is a single MBA that knows this. You know where I learned it? From my days in sales at EDS working for Ross Perot.

He taught me that people don't buy products or even services. They buy EXPECTATIONS. I'll let you ponder that. Either you will get it or you won't. I'm all out of breath here and have beaten this into the ground. I'm off to the golf course to take a walk in the woods!! Fore, Five, Six...

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.