Customer Service = Convenience

Editor’s note: We’ll be announcing all the nifty Leading Geeks changes soon, but Jenn got inspired before that…

I admit it, I subscribe to the Harvard Business Review. I’m a total business/leadership/management geek, and I really enjoy the articles and occasional data porn.  Heck, I’m even on the advisory board.  For a publication that’s supposed to be business-savvy, however, my recent renewal fiasco has been rather startling to me.

  • First I got a special offer to renew via email.  I’d get some articles about leadership.  Awesome!  So I click through the offer, and I can’t tell whether it’s print only or the premium subscription to print + online (what I currently have).
  • So I find them on twitter and ask about it.  (Yes, on twitter.  Deal with it.)
  • Whoops; wrong twitter account.  Apparently, they have several.  Re-tweet that to the correct account.
  • After a few back-and-forth exchanges, they ask me to follow them so they can DM me.  I do.
  • They DM me an email address that I can email for inquiry.  (Seriously?)
  • I try to DM back that email isn’t exactly convenient, but they’re not following me.
  • Meanwhile, I get some snail mail renewal offers, all with the same completely unclear offer–am I renewing print-only or premium? No way to tell.
  • 3 weeks later, I get around to sending that email (wonder why this blog is behind? Yeah; I’m hosed.)
  • They reply with (wait for it!)…AN 800-NUMBER TO CALL.
  • Seriously?
  • So I try to DM them about it.  Still not following me.  Shocking.
  • I send a public @ reply to them about it.
  • THEN I get an email back from that same person with an offer to sign me up for a premium subscription and bill me.

Now, wouldn’t it have been much easier to just give me the choice of renewing print-only or premium subscription on the initial email offer?  Yeah, I thought so, too.

Edit: I just received a customer service survey from HBR.  I’m trying to resist giggling maniacally about it…

Edit #2: Hey! All they ask is why I contacted them and whether my issue was resolved.  Seriously?  I don’t get to give feedback?  Mushrooms…

Edit #3: Oh, wait, it continues to more pages.  Usability fail.

6 thoughts on “Customer Service = Convenience

  1. Nice rant.
    There is an obvious customer service rant. What troubles me about HBR is that they have a confusing mix of pay, free, print and online. I enjoy the publication but I can never figure out if I have access or how to find the content.

  2. You’re right there. I subbed to the wrong version when I first signed up. It’s really not that difficult; why do they have to make it so confusing?

  3. I had a similar problem some time ago but HBR are not alone. A lot of these magazine subscription companies seem completely unaware how cumbersome their processes are. We created a site at so that regular people can rate such organisations and make their feelings known.

  4. Jenn – As an IT’er you know that this is also a problem in app dev. The developers (especially rookies, but some journeymen never learn) only code the app for what they expect the users will do based on nothing more than what the developer though about at the time. No though goes into the user who does things differently, maybe prefers to use the keyboard instead of the mouse, has special needs, wants to do something other than the default, etc. I think that no matter the functional department or the job description there is way too much of the attitude that everyone will (or should) do it the way I do it.

    1. @Sully, you’re absolutely right. Now that I work at a software company, I have a newfound appreciation for the gyrations our product team goes through in order to try to address user needs rather than internal thoughts.

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