of the web has been going through some growing pains lately,
but one aspect that started well, but has been overlooked
lately, is the ability of the little guys to tag the big guys.
I suspect that this is because after an initial spate of small
operators making big noises, the big money moved in and
everyone got distracted by it. There has been a period when
folks have believed that big money and global brands will
subsume the web, and that has resulted in the "shopping
on the web" becoming little more than the analogue of a
regular high street, with all the familiar terms of reference
to suit the global brands and advertising agencies.
The current spate of
enthusiasm for "set top boxes that do email and
shopping" (Open and Sky Digital is the current hot
number) is an excellent reminder that we have a long way to
get before the majority of the public get the plot, and that
means a transient opportunity exists for some of the
previously flawed and failed concepts of set top boxes like
the fated N-Channel system, to enjoy a brief flourish.
The result is that
there are currently a lot of folks in the serious marketing
world who reckon that they have got the plot nailed, and that
they are going to conveniently corral the public into walled
environments like Sky and Open. Bzzzt!
As if we needed
reminding that the present old economy built on bricks and
mortar, huge rents and outrageous rates was in danger, here's
a take of a business that thinks it has the plot, but doesn't.
I bought a Dustbuster
from the local Texas store recently. I got it home and it was
not "as advertised". So I thought I would look up
the manufacturer's web site and have a gripe. Here's the story
Dear Black and
Product Code V7210-gb
BATCH 9940-7 – bought at Chelmsford Homebase
I just bought a 7.2v
dust buster from the Chelmsford Homebase for Ł49.99. It was
in a "strap sealed" package, but when I got it back,
it was obviously not a new product. The accessories were loose
in the box, and the mains power charger/adapter had a broken
Further, the unit had
been packed with the power switch on, and if my knowledge of
NiCad rechargeable batteries serves me, running a Nicad flat
and keeping it flat is not the best way to make it last. And
it was clear that the box had originally had some form of
adhesive seal that was broken.
Going shopping at the
store on a Sunday is a bad experience at the best of times,
and I was not inclined to go back and exchange it and possibly
find the next one was in the same state, so I would like a
replacement battery charger and will reserve judgement on the
state of the batteries in case they turn out to be knackered.
Your web presence is
"OK" buy the way - even though the web address is
obscure - 2helpu.com ?? Why not use something that B&D
“obviously” own and control - like
help.eu.blackanddecker.com or service.eu.blackanddecker.com
B&D don't even control the support brand, some outfit
Information & Imagination Inc. (2HELPU2-DOM) 1599
Post Road East Westport,
CT 06880 US
Domain Name: 2HELPU.COM
- at least I got this
email address - albeit the instructions for the V7210 is not
at http://www.2helpu.com/scripts/great_britain.cfm and you
have not used the domain names blackdecker.co.uk or
blackanddecker.co.uk very intelligently. (If
blackanddecker.com leads me to the Global website, I would
assume blackanddecker.co.uk goes to the UK presence..)
And although the info
leaflet supplied implies spares are available, I cannot
readily see how one would set about buying them. In my
experience, trying to buy something like the filters from a
brain-dead chain of retail sheds is likely to be a waste of
And why not invite the
purchaser to register their purchase via the web, and when
doing so, prompt them to maybe buy supplies like spare filters
directly from the spares warehouse - or ask if they would like
a reminder in 6 months..? Anyway, getting the customer
demographic details should be valuable enough to you to offer
to send a free spare filter, surely..? I guess you get maybe
10% max registration through the paper process..?
The company also tries
to hide its direct email contact points rather too
effectively. Yours is one of only about 3 addresses on the
entire site and subsites. Even the Chairman's Statement at
http://www.bdk.com/99Report/stockholder_letter1.htm hides the
ID of the writer until you get to the end of the whole thing.
email address on the letter suggests that Nolan doesn't care
for doing his own email - or even has a policy on how it gets
handled when people want to write in - and as a stockholder,
I'd be bothered about that.
Even if these people
e-illiterate, give them email addresses and work out how to
handle the interface to your customers and stockholders. At
least it then looks like business intends to be doing
ebusiness one day.
Plus there are so many
confused domain names in use
- also including bdk.com I see.
You have some OK stuff
on the web site, but B&D badly need to have someone get s
proper grip on its internet strategy and opportunity and
redirect energy from being quite such a "designer
corporate brochureware" site, and taking responsibility
for your core business -
customer satisfaction and care - yourselves; not just
outsourcing it all.
I can get a Korean
plant to make drills and dustbusteralikes and outsource
support as easily as you can. Then all I need to do is buy my
advertising more efficiently, pull off a couple of PR coups
(place a product in the next James Bond movie - some villain
with a cordless drill would probably do to establish my brand)
and you folks have a problem.
I took a flyer on
guessing a couple of email addresses just in case I get lucky
and hit the right desks. Sadly, they all bounced. But then
again, I’m not surprised that the web dept. wants to keep
the reactions of B&D customers from the board – it might
spoil their day.
I duly called the
number and was told that "we're not stocking the
7110.." with no intelligent life present at the other end
to deal with my follow up question <
"Then why is BT advertising the things, and why am I
being SMSed by genie with offers (dated March 1st)"
The response of the
next persons was equally feeble. Much rambling about special
retail promotions, and the admission that loyal long suffering
customers don't have any sort of upgrade option. Do you
actively want existing users to cancel their present contracts
and start again..?
Although I am
speechless, I am not surprised. I have come to expect this
level of incompetence from most "regional call centre"
services for any national brand.
And I am in awe of
your ability to bid billions for a license for the next
generation of cell frequencies, when you plainly don't have
the intelligence to coordinate the marketplace for the present