Month: February 2010
Great! This blog post is written especially for you!
Be aware: The fact that you are about to manage a web site really changes a lot in your product strategy and the management processes that you know from “offline” products. I have prepared a crash course for you – defining terms and phrases that you will need to understand as part of your web product management role:
CPC, PPC etc.
Due to the fact that there are many different kinds of business models that exist in the web world, a lot of abbreviations have become very common (I am not really sure if that is a good thing…), particularly when it comes to advertising!
Most common is PPC (Pay per Click) which describes a model where the advertiser is charged only when a user clicks on their ad. Google Adwords is the most well known example of this. The payment amount or CPC (Cost per Click) defines the price paid by the advertiser for each click.
Even if your business model will not be advertising-based, the day will come that you either want to advertise your product on other sites or that you want to implement some advertising model on your site. You will need to understand the common models to avoid (expensive) mistakes.
A website has to be up and running all the time, and there can be numerous backend servers and database needed to do this. You’ll need to schedule regular maintenance time to handle patches and upgrades. But, if you encounter a large bug on your production site or the site is not working at all, you might need to interrupt the usual release cycle and schedule an emergency deploy to fix urgent problems. In the worst case you will have to adjust the timings of your product plan because of these events.
In “offline” product management you basically have to think about how to create a great user experience. In web product management you have to think about search engines, too. Unfortunately users and crawler bots don´t always have the same needs which makes SEO (search engine optimization) quite interesting. SEO is the process of improving traffic to your site from search engines.
Important: Do not get the idea that you can completely outsource this! The majority of modern internet business models are based on good SEO, and your product planning will be affected by SEO requirements right from the start!
Private Beta / Public Beta
That is possibly one of the biggest luxuries that you will have as a web product manager. You can launch your product while it is still in beta-state. You just put a “beta” label beside your logo and a feedback-button somewhere prominently on your page and see what happens – this is called “public beta”. If that is too crazy for you then you can password-protect your site and only share it with selected users – that is a “private beta”.
Very important: Get the idea out of your head that your product needs to be perfect before you can launch it! There are many minimalistic and half-backed products out there that are pretty successful. Early release beats perfectionism and the minimum viable product beats the over-featured product. Remember the early days of Twitter?
Well this has nothing to do with food! In the web a cookie is just a piece of data that will be saved at the client computer. A bunch of very common features rely on cookies such as online-shopping or login-sessions etc. It’s important for you to know that features that rely on cookies can be very painful to test because the features can behave differently depending on the client´s configuration of browsers etc.
“See you at 2 am!”
Well, in theory you can release a new version of your web product at any time you want. But maybe you don´t want to risk downtime during the peak periods of the website. So for bigger releases and maintenance operations, the early morning might be the only time-frame of the day with low traffic …and you and your team are working hard while everybody else is sleeping! If your website has a huge amount of traffic you might even consider to launch at the weekends, because usually the traffic is lower during those times.
Creating a useful user interface for websites is a hard job. In the offline world you “only” have to think about which operating system and screen resolutions your target customers have. In the web you also have to worry about different browser versions, browser security & privacy settings, pop-up blockers etc. It is almost impossible to create a complex website that will work with all browsers.
My recommendation: Focus on the most popular browsers and be minimalistic with the product features. The best way to figure out which browser your web product needs to support is to take a look in your web analytics. The diversity of browsers can vary significantly depending on the target group or target-country of your website. At minimum, your site should support Firefox, Internet Explorer (even the old IE 6 is still a common browser) and Chrome.
You will have lots of information about the users of your product – for free! Google Analytics is the most common free web analytics tool that will provide interesting information about your users. For example: number of visits, pageviews, average time on page, country, browser version, screen resolution, bounce rate, top landing pages and much more. Get familiar with these analytics tools and identify the strong and weak points of your product!
Even in the age of high-speed internet connections you need to have a fast website! Not only do users like fast websites, search engines love them as well! Listen to what Matt Cutts from Google says about this:
I hope this crash course will be helpful for you to kick-start your web product manager career!
Here’s a short survey to help understand what is good, bad and ugly about Product Management and Product Marketing.
|Click this link and fill out the survey.|
It should only take about 5 minutes.
I’ll summarize and share the results next week once enough survey responses are received. And don’t worry, the survey is completely anonymous.
NOTE: While my focus is on Product Management and Marketing, if you are a reader of this blog, feel free to fill out the survey as well. I’d love to hear about your role.
Back in December, I wrote about a terrible experience trying to buy a washer and dryer on sale on the FutureShop website.
Although the purchase experience was bad, the company did deliver the two units to my house 6 days later, as promised. When the delivery men brought the units into my house, I thought my troubles were over. Little did I know….
The following is an extreme summary of the events that occurred AFTER the units were delivered to my house. I sent a 5 page letter detailing the entire fiasco to FutureShop including all the badge numbers of the people I spoke with, in hopes that they would do something about the problem. To this date, there are still some issues outstanding.
Keep in mind, all I wanted was an exchange on the washer that I had purchased. Nothing else.
Dec. 30, 2009 – Washer and dryer units delivered to my house. Units sat in my foyer untouched until we sold our old washer/dryer units
Jan 10, 2010 – Old washer/dryer units picked up by buyer. Fully unpacked new washer and noticed washing drum was not secure and unit had a lot of water in it. Not what I would expect in a supposedly new washer. See video below.
Jan 10, 2010 – Called FutureShop Customer Service. Had the person listen to the water in the washer. Was told that a replacement or a repair could be made. Asked for a replacement. CSR suggested calling a local store for a replacement.
Jan 10, 2010 – Called local FutureShop store. Spoke to a store employee (Shams) who suggested that I “Google” whether having so much water in a brand new washer is a common problem. I ignored the answer and asked if they had a replacement unit available for exchange. Was told no, and that replacement units must come from the warehouse.
Jan 10, 2010 – Called Customer Service again. Spoke to yet another CSR (Travis) who also agreed water in a new machine was not right. Recommended I call their Quality Service Advantage department for assistance.
Jan 10, 2010 – Called Quality Service Advantage and was told Customer Service (!) had to deal with the exchange as QSA only deals with repairs.
Jan 10, 2010 – Called Customer Service yet again. Spoke with David. Explained situation yet again. David indicated that a replacement was in order and put me on hold. Someone else picked up the phone and asked me to explain the reason I wanted a replacement! This person’s name was Miles.I demanded to speak with a Manager. Apparently no Managers work on Sundays. Was told the name of a Manager (Drew) and that we could call him on Monday. Was also told that FutureShop would contact us by telephone within 48 hours to arrange for the delivery and pickup of a new unit. Miles also indicated the issue had been escalated to the delivery team for their attention.
Jan 12, 2010 – More than 48 hours later, still no phone call from FutureShop. Called Customer Service (spoke with Debbie) who was surprised we hadn’t been contacted, and later transferred me to Chris who also shared the same sense of surprise. Chris suggested waiting until end of workday (5PM).
Jan 12, 2010 – 5:18 PM – called FutureShop back and spoke with Matthew. Matthew also was surprised that our case had not been dealt with. Matthew took more notes, promised to escalate the issue (it hadn’t been escalated as Miles had promised) and indicated it would be dealt with “ASAP”.
Jan 12, 2010 – Matthew forwarded me to the “Floor Supervisor” (named Junior) who yet again indicated surprise at the lack of progress. Junior repeated the “ASAP” promise and indicated that he would escalate this to the Head Office and a District Manager who would deal with this and contact us.
Jan 13, 2010 – 72 hours after we were promised a phone call with the delivery time for our replacement unit, I received an email indicating an additional 48 hour wait is pending:
Hello Saeed, I have received your request for an exchange of your FutureShop.ca order. You will receive an e-mail within 48 hours indicating that your request has been processed with the scheduled date for pickup. Thank you, Bradly Customer Support Home Delivery Services
Jan 14, 2010 – Called Customer Service and spoke to Wayne about the constant delays and the email received the day before. Wayne indicated nothing else could be done. When I asked to speak to a Supervisor, he indicated a Supervisor would call me back. Of course, no Supervisor called me back.
Jan 15, 2010 – Called Home Delivery Services, spoke to Marnie who yet again took all my information, expressed disbelief at the situation and suggested I call Quality Service Advantage. For whatever reason, I decided to do that, and who picked up the phone? The same Marnie.
Jan 15, 2010 – Hung up and called Customer Service again. Got connected to Wayne. Yes, the very same Wayne from the day before who promised a Supervisor would call. Wayne was “surprised” that a Supervisor hadn’t called, indicated that a supervisor couldn’t do anything anyway and asked me to hold while he transferred me to a supervisor. 13 minutes later, Kelsey – a “Floor Supervisor” came on the phone.
Jan 15, 2010 – After a frustrating conversation with Kelsey trying to get a firm answer on when my replacement until would be delivered, I asked Kelsey to commit to one thing. Call me before 5PM that day and let me know whether or not a time/date had been set for delivering my washer. He committed to call me either way. I didn’t receive a call from Kelsey by 5PM.
Jan 15, 2010 – In the evening received a call from someone named Cliff. He was actually calling about a conversation we had with Miles on Jan 10, to clarify that the Manager whose name we were given by Miles (Drew) was on holidays and was not available. I spoke to Cliff detailing all the problems we had had that week in simply trying to get a replacement delivery scheduled for our washer. Cliff listened and committed to escalating the issue, and also committed to calling us back the next day with a status.
Jan 16, 2010 – Late in the day, Cliff called us back! This was the first person at FutureShop who actually did what he/she said they would do. He indicated that we should have received an email with a scheduled date of Jan 25, 2010 for a replacement unit. Not great in my opinion, but at least we have a date in writing.
Jan 16, 2010 – Cliff also asked us to provide him in detail all the notes we had about who we spoke to, when we spoke to them, what they did and didn’t do etc. We forward this to him and he indicated that he’d look into some kind of compensation for all the trouble we went through.
To this date, we have not heard back from FutureShop on this.
One final note:
Jan 17, 2010 – Received the following email from FutureShop Customer Service. This is a verbatim copy of the email. Read it carefully.
Dear Saeed Khan, Your request has been submitted to our Home Delivery Specialist Team. Someone will be in contact with you within 24-72 business days with a resolution. We do sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Sincerely, Sue Customer Support Home Delivery Services
Yes, it says 24-72 business days!
After everything else, to receive an irrelevant form email that itself has typos is the height of incompetence.
We did get our replacement units (they replaced both the washer and the dryer) in late January, but as mentioned earlier we still have not heard back about any compensation for having to spend so much time dealing with such a completely inept organization. With the sole exception of Cliff, I feel confident making the following statements about FutureShop Customer Service Representatives.
- They openly and consistently lie to customers
- They don’t know what the word “Service” means
- They are trained to show empathy over the phone but have a complete disregard for customer issues
- Beyond empathy training, they are not trained to read notes in a file and have no understanding of internal FutureShop processes
As for FutureShop management, they are either AWOL or also have disdain for customers. When I asked for the name of the VP or other executive who is responsible for customer service, I was given a postal address in British Columbia. No actual name of a person, no specific email address, no escalation path that I could pursue. And of course, after sending a 5 page letter detailing my problems with FutureShop to Cliff, no callback from anyone at FutureShop.
You be the judge of this one. Have you heard of a worse company in this regard?