Netflix has a bit of a public relations nightmare on their hands at the moment. You may have heard about it. The internet has been ablaze following an email sent to all of their subscribers and this blog post by the company:
Netflix has now added themselves to the cases discussed at marketing, public relations and social media conferences as an example of how to get it wrong – horribly wrong – when communicating with customers and then ignoring their outrage.
In my mind, this really isn’t about a simple matter of a price increase. Sure, no one wants to pay more for anything than they were yesterday. Why would we? If, on the other hand, either I was getting more for my money or the company took the time to intelligently explain to me why this change was necessary, I might feel differently. Neither of these things has happened here.
It isn’t about the what. It’s about the how.
An excerpt of the blog post illustrates part of the reason I think they screwed up the how.
Now we offer a choice: Unlimited Streaming for $7.99 a month, Unlimited DVDs for $7.99 a month, or both for $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). We think $7.99 is a terrific value for our unlimited streaming plan and $7.99 a terrific value for our unlimited DVD plan. We hope one, or both, of these plans makes sense for our members and their entertainment needs. As always, our members can easily choose to change or cancel their unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both by visiting Your Account.
“Now we offer a choice.” Really? As a longtime customer, it never crossed my mind that I wanted a choice. It’s patronizing to play up the fact that there is now a choice between one-half of what I was getting before and the other half. Neither half is better than it was before, they’re just separate and more expensive.
Perhaps I missed the part where Netflix explained that they’re interested in how their customers define “terrific value.” It’s not only that prices are being increased; presenting this as a “terrific value” has left many feeling talked down to, as if the company doesn’t realize they can do the math.
More how: Announce, duck and cover.
Once the announcement of the price increase was made, people flooded Netflix with feedback. Many thousands of customers posted messages on the company’s blog post, Facebook page and Twitter, only to be met with deafening silence. Failing to acknowledge or respond to people’s feedback only further enrages them. One imagines them huddled in the executive conference room, underneath the long table, waiting out the storm. “Is it safe to go out yet?” “I don’t know, you go see if they’re still posting angry comments. I’m not going.”
That poor blogger and one more thing
Since this broke yesterday, I had been feeling bad for the blogger, the woman who had the unenviable duty to post that now infamous blog post. “She’s probably on their social media team and contributes to their blog,” I thought, “She’s probably feeling really awful right about now.” Today, I was still concerned about her and went to look her up on LinkedIn.
The good news is that I don’t feel bad anymore. She’s the V.P. of Marketing at Netflix. The surprising “one more thing” news is that I also saw this on her LinkedIn page:
I’m guessing the intent of this recruitment campaign on LinkedIn was not to engage people drawn in by a firestorm. As an addition to the long list of lessons learned, I’d suggest that while huddled under the conference room table, the team might also want to consider other, unrelated campaigns running and whether to put them on hold in the short run.
Two other pieces which provide valuable perspective on this situation:
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