Is doing what you promised enough?

I have been a Rhapsody music subscriber for some time. I love the idea of music on demand and never paying for individual tracks. I love downloading a new artist and then later deciding if I like them without incurring any incremental cost one way or the other.

What I don’t like is the fact that Rhapsody has not figured out an application for the Blackberry. I can either play music on my Rhapsody compatible player or on my laptop. Rhapsody has apps for both iPhone and Droid but no blackberry and while I’d love to switch to either, I’m bound to a standard corporate issued blackberry.

Before this comes off as just another rant, let me say this post was prompted by an interesting thread going on in the Rhapsody community. It’s interesting from the standpoint that there are a lot of annoyed, loyal Rhapsody subscribers out there waiting for a blackberry app. But even more interesting is some of the arguments being made both against and in defense of Rhapsody.

The argument against: This app was more or less announced last year as coming in “early” 2010. Hmmm… well clearly, they missed that one. There’s supposed to be a beta coming out but I have not heard of anyone being chosen, so I can only assume its not out yet. People are waiting, people have expressed a want / need, and Rhapsody has more or less failed to deliver on this. This in turn has prompted some customer defections.

The defense: One writer makes the point that when we signed up for Rhapsody, a blackberry app was never part of the deal (unless you signed up with the expectation that the app was coming). We willingly signed up or continue to subscribe despite alternatives out there, so really it’s not like there’s a real disservice going on.

So if you buy the latter argument, I ask this question…

Is it enough to provide exactly what customers signed up for (and nothing more)?

Is it enough to justify the disappointment being expressed across a broad community of blackberry / rhapsody users? To me, the answer is like everything in marketing, and that is “it depends.” Here’s my thoughts on when it’s enough….

1) When you’re the only game in town. That’s pretty obvious, and in this case we all know Rhapsody is not the only game in town.

2) When you…  um…. well, ok, there’s really only one reason.

I guess you could say there are ways to better communicate value, to create community, and all that jazz. But at the end of the day, when customers have expressed a need that can be met by a competitor, continuing to do just what you say you’re going to do isn’t enough.

So the only question remaining is, why am I still with Rhapsody? Like so many on the referenced thread, apathy – a powerful attribute which will keep customers around for a bit (think cable and phone) but sooner or later that goodwill will run out. The irony is that rather than spend the hour or so to switch services, I instead chose to write this blog. So obviously, I haven’t reached that tipping point yet, but I’ll let you know if we get there.

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  1. #1 by Sam on July 12, 2010 - 9:23 pm

    Vote with your wallet and cancel your account. Its the only thing they’re guaranteed to notice and understand.

  2. #2 by Kris Kaneta on July 12, 2010 - 9:30 pm

    You’re right. No argument. I guess I’m (maybe naively) holding out for this beta… I don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching providers (see my comments on apathy). But sooner or later I may be forced to vote, as you say, with my wallet.

  3. #3 by Ramiro Roman on July 13, 2010 - 6:54 am

    No, I don’t think it’s “enough” to just deliver what they promised, judging by your post. Sounds like there was a shift in the competitive landscape, customer expectations or brand suggestion. I’m with Sam, vote with your wallet, it’s the only way. I did this 3 years ago by going with Vonage – haven’t looked back to Time Warner or major providers.

  4. #4 by Sam on July 13, 2010 - 11:20 am

    One thing I’ll say is that over-delivering does incur costs (bandwidth, coding time, COGS, etc). If you’re giving all of this away for not much in incremental sales (whether it be upgrades to current service or new subscribers) then you’re giving away margin to provide a “customer delighter.” If you do enough of that, then you could end up delighting your way right out of business.

    So yes, I think its imperative for the business to figure out the right package of services to deliver, price that package thoughtfully, and then hold *exactly* to the agreed upon terms. If the customer wants more, then you can get in to tiered pricing, options, upgrades, etc.

  5. #5 by Kris Kaneta on July 13, 2010 - 9:28 pm

    I think tiered pricing gets tricky. You hate for the customer to start dictating what’s “in” and what’s “out”. What you’re saying about not giving things away is true, but at the same time you don’t want to lose folks because they may not have a higher willingness to pay for a particular feature. Better to bundle / aggregate… some stuff I may not value, but others I may value significantly.

    I think we’re saying the same thing… Just that when you say “tiered” I have this visions of incremental pricing which I’m not a fan of (think airlines).

    Thanks guys for the comments. Love the dialogue.

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