Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Oh No O2

Previously, I have given great praise to the marketing initiatives of UK communications provider O2, particularly with reference to their approach to existing customers.

In a previous post, I wrote about how pleased I was that O2 were going to provide free upgrades to existing iPhone customers when the new iPhone 3G launches on 11 July and gleefully registered my interest on the O2 Website.

From here, I'm afraid everything went disastrously wrong. There have been a catalogue of fundamental errors made for any organisation seeking to offer an integrated marketing strategy.

I shall detail them all here:

Mistake No.1.

As I had heard nothing from O2 since I registered my interest, I nervously gave them a call last week, a week before launch, to check that my details were registered correctly and that I would be contacted about the impending launch.

As friendly as the sales rep was, she was unable to confirm or deny that I had managed to register my details effectively or that I would be contacted about an upgrade. Surely, as I entered my details online, they must be stored in a database? But the sales staff, working in upgrade support, were not aware of such a database.

It is basic marketing principle to keep sales staff informed of any offer that may be happening, even if it is purely online. To have the dedicated iPhone upgrade sales team without the means to find out if customers are registered for an upgrade is farcical.

Mistake No.2.

So Monday was D-day. I received a text message from O2 at 1020 in the morning stating:

"iPhone 3G is here. The phone you've been waiting to upgrade to order from 8am today. As an iPhone customer we are offering you a special early upgrade to iPhone 3G. This order is only available online. Demand is expected to be very high so to be fair to all customers, orders will be processed on a first come first served basis."

So to pick out the two key points here: The upgrade is available from 8am today. To be fair to all customers, orders will be processed on a first come first served basis. If I receive a text from O2 telling me this at 1020, when the phone has been on sale since 0800, how is this fair?

If O2, decided to stagger the delivery text messages based on customer ID then why not change the content of the text message appropriately. A targeted approach would send me a text message and give me access to the website via a dedicated code only available for me. An entrance to the website would be reserved again, exclusively for me. That would make me feel incredibly valuable as a customer.

With any marketing activity, the timing of execution is crucial. High Street retailers would not invite customers to a sale starting at 0900 with adverts in the Evening Standard on the same day.

Mistake No.3.

As any webmaster knows, being able to anticipate visitor figures is vital to ensure the correct deployment of technology and resource. I forecast visitors figures for 12 months in advance in order to ensure that the we have an adequate number of servers in place to cope with potential capacity and the call centre is adequately staffed. It is far from an exact science but scenario planning for best, worst and expected cases helps.

In this instance O2 had all the forecasting done for them. Two hundred thousand people registered online for the iPhone. Therefore, they must have sent 200,000 text messages.

Technology must be synchronised with marketing activity. Otherwise any marketing activity could result in consumers having a worse opinion of your brand.

Mistake No.4.

As a result of the launch marketing activity, the options on the automated phone system for the dedicated iPhone support were altered. They were divided into Pay Monthly and the new Pay as You Go service. However, as I was scrambling around with the website, I had cause to make phone calls to see if I could verify that my payment had gone through and if not, to complete my payment over the phone.

After being directed through the automated options (2 for pay monthly, 1 for purchases) the phone line went dead. I tried several times and the same thing occurred. Was this deliberate from O2? As a result of the demand were they dumping calls in an effort to buy some time?

This is a classic example of a marketing campaign that did not have enough involvement from suitable stakeholders throughout the business. If you send 200K text messages asking people to view a particular site then your website needs to be able to handle 200K people - all at the same time.

With any product launch, businesses must involve everyone that could be impacted, this includes IT to ensure that websites can manage the volume, retail and telesales staff to ensure that they can validate the offer and pick-up any additional questions and PR to manage any noise that comes as a result of the activity. This is all part of an integrated approach.

If you're struggling with any of this O2, I'd happily come and work in online marketing for you.

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