Alex Weinstein
On Growth, Product, and Leadership
What is your marketing worth if the product isn't aligned with it?

This beautiful ad promised a cheaper and faster internet connection. Next-generation magical words were said: “fiber-optic home Internet” and “gig speed.” I’m intrigued - in the days when streaming and video conferences are the primary ways to spend time - the message is resonating better than ever. I dread calling Comcast to cancel. I’m afraid that the new service might be unreliable. And yet, the allure of fiber is so strong. “You’re an early adopter of technology,” the inside voice says, “you can’t be still using cable while everyone else moved on!..”

Misalignment

So I do it. I go to the website of this next-gen company and set the installation appointment - only 10 days out, awesome! They even promise a fully no-contact installation experience - exactly what everyone expects during COVID.

10 days later, the tech shows up. Knocks on my door. Oh sorry, you set up the appointment online? Yeah, they don’t check if you actually have the fiber optic wire connected from the street to your house. Someone needs to come and dig up a trench and lay it - it’s just 30 feet, no big deal. Someone will come and do that in the next couple of weeks. Alright.

A couple of weeks pass. Another call to customer service. Yes, we need to do some digging. Great, we’ll have an appointment for that in 2 weeks. Two more weeks, nobody does the digging. Another call to customer service. Very friendly people. Nobody then shows up to do the digging. Exasperated, I called them and pleaded - “what would it take for you guys to actually be able to take my money!? Please!..” 3 months later, 4 calls to customer service, the same story.

My experience with this company, Ziply Fiber, is a classical example of what happens if you focus your effort on improving each component, each part, but lose sight of the overall story - of the end-to-end experience of the customer.

I bet Ziply folks have very hard-working marketers that developed kickass messaging I resonated with - and they also buy media well. They likely track the efficiency of their ads based upon the number of installation appointments they get. Guess what, they’re kick-ass.

I bet Ziply tracks the quality of customer service, based upon average call times and post-call satisfaction surveys. I think their service agents are amazing and I consistently give them five stars in a post-call survey.

And yet. I probably cost Ziply hundreds of dollars. They haven’t made a penny off of me. And all I wanted to do was to become their customer!..

This saga is quite a lesson for all of us. We so frequently find ourselves stuck in the confines of our disciplines. Leaders of marketing think about how to make their messaging and ad buying better. Leaders of the product look at conversion at key points in the funnel. Customer service managers look at CSAT statistics. And yet, so few companies have the culture to look across the funnel - at the entirety of the customer experience. So many scenarios fall through the cracks in the org chart.

If product and marketing don’t match, it doesn’t matter how good the marketing is. Even if you convince the customer that they have the problem that your product solves, and they come begging you to solve it… if you actually don’t… it was all in vain.

Especially now, with many of the industries turned upside down, it’s helpful to take the highest possible vantage point. As the customer of this business, what would I want? As the CEO of this business, what would I want? Taking a step back - and finding cracks in the customer experience - can be profoundly impactful.

Update from 6/30/2021

I finally have Ziply service, and I love it! Gig speed, as promised! And their customer service left me two voicemails after the installation to make sure I’m happy. Wow, what a turnaround.

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