Authenticity is a bit of a buzz word in the help circles almost to the point of being a cliche. But then, cliches become cliches for a reason – because they resonate with us.
In this post I’m going to share two recent customer service experiences that I’ve had in the last month and how, to me, one passed the question of authenticity with marvellously and the other one failed abysmally.
I’m a big fan of what Craft & Vision (C&V) do – sell beautiful photography resources at very reasonable prices.
C&V is, as far as I can tell, owned by David duChemin. It was the no surprise C&V listed 100 copies of David’s latest book, Soul of the Camera on sale prior to it being released. Almost instantly, I bought a copy of the book.
About a month after that, the book was released and I received an email that the book was on its way. Meanwhile, I read the pdf version of the book which was also sent via email. I knew the book will take a while to arrive to this corner of the world so I waited patiently.
About 4 weeks after release, I was still waiting for my book and finally decided to get in touch with the C&V Helpdesk.
I contacted them with some hesitancy. I had known the C&V brand to be honest and authentic – but that was just my impression of them without any direct contact. Honest and authentic is also how I would describe David duChemin – having read his books etc.
So the hesitancy when contacting them came from a fear – fear of finding out that these guys are actually jerks – and that my impression had been wrong all this time. I did not want to have my view of them shattered.
So when I contacted them after about 4 weeks, it was suggested that I waited a little longer – which I was happy to do so.
6 weeks later, I was still waiting and decided to contact C&V help desk again. This time I received an email back within hours – not just from C&V helpdesk but the author himself, David duChemin –
How cool is that? Of course, they followed through on the email and I received my book within a week after that. This time, not only the book was sent with tracking but the shipping was expedited from Canada.
Shipping label on the packaging stated the shipping cost at (I assume CAD) $78! This new shipping cost + the book + original shipping cost far exceeded the amount I spent on the book so I can say for certain that they lost a decent amount of money on this transaction.
I expressed my gratitude after receiving the book and got an equally gracious final email back.
This is authenticity in action, through and through.
The second customer experience I’ve had is with the folks who make the Ulysses app. Those who don’t know, Ulysses is a popular writing app for the MacOS and iOS. It’s the app that I use for writing and then publishing on this blog.
I bought Ulysses about 2 months ago at the cost of about $70 for both Mac and iOS version. Easily the most I’ve spent on any app on the App Store. The folks who make the app marketed themselves as a group of indie developers, who I was only happy to support.
To my surprise then, two weeks ago, they announced that they are discontinuing the original Ulysses app (which I bought) and released a new app on the subscription model. They also decided that my $70 spent just two months ago equated to about a year and a half’s subscription on the new app and I was offered that. After a year and a half, if I decide not to upgrade, the app will turn into a read only zombie mode.
Of course, they say, that I can stick with the original app which I paid for – but the original has now been taken off the App Store which means that there won’t be any more updates – even critical updates to it in future. It could simply break with the next release of the OS.
Adding insult to injury, the original now also has an annoying, time locked popup asking to upgrade each time I open the app. Sigh.
They explained their reasons. On the face of it, I understand that the pay once only model is not suitable for the developers needing to make money to stay in business, but you’d think that after spending $70 on an app, on a presumption that I was owning it into near future should have meant a little bit more to the developers.
In their explanation on Medium, they stated that they had been thinking about switching for a couple of years. Then, why lie about it when asked about it on Twitter?
Perhaps, they could have announced in advance that this change was coming and allowed us to make a decision?
Ulysses has almost certainly lost my business beyond my “free-use” period (even though I’ve paid for it, so not really a “free-use”, is it?).
The two customer service experiences themselves have very little to do with photography. But I think it’s a practical life lesson in authenticity and how one brand got it right and the other one completely lost any loyalty that it had built with its base.