Case Study for Seth Godin’s “Five Ingredients of smart Online Commerce”

Marketing Guru Seth Goden just wrote a post – the “Five ingredients of smart online commerce.” After a recent interaction with Drs. Foster & Smith, a pet supply company, I thought I’d see how well their site fared by Godin’s metric:

  1. “They sell a product you can’t buy at the local store.” [Success]
  2. “They understand that online pictures are free.” [Fail]
  3. “They use smart copy.” [Success]
  4. “They are obsessed with permission.” [Success]
  5. “They aren’t afraid to post reviews. Even critical ones.” [Fail]
    [It should be noted that Godin doesn’t allow comments/discussion/review on his own blog.]

To be fair to Drs. Foster and Smith – for the most part they’ve handled the transaction well:  I was contacted promptly when I sent an email asking about returning the dog bowl I ordered (which was far smaller than the description posted on the website).  When I tweeted my dissatisfaction, they refunded my money before they had even received the returned product.

However, what I can’t abide is how they handled my review of the product on their website.  They have a section marked “Testimonials” for product reviews.  I submitted a review noting that the size was incorrectly advertised and that the product was unsatisfactory.  Rather than posting my review – they disabled reviews for that product (which they continue to sell).

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In the era of social media – this sort of situation is actually a chance to improve your reputation because it allows the public to witness your dispute resolution process (by preserving it online for people to see).  When you allow engagement on your website or social media presence, you create the possibility for people to happen across examples attesting to your quality

Here’s what should have happened:

  1. The negative review I submitted should have been approved/posted.
  2. Customer Service at that point should have initiated a refund (without me having to post a negative tweet).
  3. Someone should have responded to my negative review explaining the situation (I don’t blame Drs. Foster and Smith for the product description – they likely were misinformed by the manufacturer) and noting that my money was refunded.
  4. Then, I should have been invited to publicly rate my satisfaction with the response.  (Some might worry that I would still hold a grudge and post a spiteful negative review – but then that spiteful act would have been preserved too so people could see that I was just a jerk even though the company attempted to satisfactorily resolve my concerns).

By going the route they chose – Drs. Foster and Smith is missing out on the opportunity to show other potential customers that I was ultimately satisfied with them.  All anyone would see if they happened to search for background on the store (with the exception of this blog post) is my negative tweet and a tweet in response.

One thought on “Case Study for Seth Godin’s “Five Ingredients of smart Online Commerce”

  1. Ellen says:

    FYI, Drs. Foster & Smith implemented product reviews on January 13, 2011, replacing our testimonials (by definition, a letter or written statement of recommendation). Please feel free to submit a review.


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