Web Business Review

I’d Like To Be a PODS Customer, But They Are Making It Too Hard

Last week, Mike Blumenthal blogged about hurdles being put in his way by a hotel asking for customer reviews. I’m finding myself in a similar situation with a popular moving/storage company called PODS and I think the issues I’m facing with them are worth noting.

I heard about PODS from my sister (good old word of mouth marketing). They offer an interesting service. They deliver a storage container to your house, you fill it up, and they come take it away and drive it to your new home or a storage unit when you’re ready. I decided I wanted to learn more about how this worked and I had some specific questions I wanted answers to.

Clearly, care has gone into the Pods site. They’ve got videos, testimonials and all those kinds of confidence-building elements I like to see.

But, try as I might, I could not find any reference to how large the containers are. Bigger than a bread box? As big as a moving van? Bigger? My apologies to PODS if this information is on there somewhere, but after a good 15 minutes on the site, I still couldn’t find it.

So, I decided I’d fill out their form to get a quick quote on how much it would cost to move house from Point A to Point B. I seldom fill out forms…I don’t like giving out my email address because of the risk of being put on mailing lists…but I did want to get a sense of costs, so I made the choice to enter my data this time around. I liked the fact that the form had a zipcode lookup in case I didn’t know what it would be for my hypothetical new address. Lots of people who are moving likely don’t know their future zipcode until they settle in. So, I liked that part of the process.

What I did not like was what happened when I’d filled in all the blanks and hit enter. I was taken to a screen informing me that I needed to call PODS to get the quote that the form had promised me.

A little red flag rose up in my mind at that moment. I felt as though I’d just given away my personal information for the good of someone’s database…not for my own benefit. This was a very poor trust signal. But, having made this much of a commitment to learn about PODS, I found their number and called them.

Unfortunately, there was no one there to answer my call. This was in the evening, to be sure, but my feelings of trust eroded away a degree more realizing they don’t have 24 hour phone service. I expect this from a national company that is dealing with something as important as customers’ personal belongings. Imagine your family sitting on the steps of your new home in Lincoln, Nebraska at midnight on moving day, waiting for your POD to arrive with all of your stuff in it and it never shows up. You try to phone PODS to find out where it is, but there is no one there to take you call. That’s not a situation I’d want to be in, but it was the one I imagined once I understood there was no phone service.

However, it was then that I noticed they offer a Live Chat function on their website.

“Okay,” I said.”Maybe the Live Chat operator won’t be able to give me a quote for my hypothetical move, but they should at least be able to tell me how big the containers are.”

No such luck, unfortunately. The Live Chat was also unavailable.

So, here I am left having filled out PODS’ form, made a call, tried to speak with a Live Chat tech, and I am none the wiser as to how much PODS costs and whether their containers will fit in my narrow, country driveway.

My interest in this was so keen, I tried calling a bit earlier in the evening the next day and tried accessing the Live Chat again. I got the same response – nobody at home.

I don’t conduct personal business during the day. That’s work time. Most people are in the same boat. If, for some reason, PODS can’t staff a 24 hour phone line or Live Chat, they should at least make their form return a quote instead of using it for some other, undisclosed purpose. As it is, the form fails to meet my expectations as a user. It lacks transparency and leads to disappointment. I bet I’m not the only customer that has been turned away by this usability/functional issue.

So, where does that leave me? I’m still interested in the PODS service. A look at the SERPs shows me that they have competitors. PODS ought to know that they are making potential customers look elsewhere in hopes of finding a quote and basic information about these mobile containers. A few changes to their system could work some serious wonders for their bottom line.

Vermont Country Store Catalog Onslaught!

Vermont Country Store Catalogs
Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

I ask pardon for the sarcasm contained in the following post, but I feel the need to let out a little roar. Chances are, you’ve heard of the Vermont Country Store, that popular old-timey business that sells everything from Habitant Pea Soup to retro candy to alarming implements designed for trimming one’s nose hair. They’ve positioned themselves as America’s best-known general store, and they’ve won me as a repeat customer because they are literally the last place I can find in the wide world selling cotton knee highs, but – OH MY STARS – they are driving me bananas with their marketing efforts.

Over the past six weeks, I have received not one, not two, but FIVE catalogs from these folks. And, these are not five different catalogs, though each one has a different cover. The interior contents are about 98% identical, across the board. Perhaps each one has a couple of new items, such as their New Sweet Potato Casserole (friends and family will never know you just opened a can), but overall, the items in all the catalogs are identical. Having been the bewildered recipient of, perhaps, ten catalogs this year from this company, I am left wondering what their marketers are telling them.

Do they think I immediately threw out catalog #6, so they’d better send me #7 three days later? Do they think I’m careless, and have misplaced the last four catalogs that are sitting in a stack on my windowsill for Fall, Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, All Saints Day, National Telephone Repairman’s Day, or whatever else it is that these catalogs are meant to pertain to? Last week, because I ordered those knee highs I mentioned, my mailbox contained not only the package of socks with catalog included, but also a second catalog, sitting right on top!

Sure, it’s important to remind your customers that you exist and that you’ve got inventory. But annoying your clientele is hardly what I’d call a clever marketing plan. I think it’s the unwarranted republication of the same contents with different, cheery covers that bugs me the most about what The Vermont Country store is doing. The moment anyone gets past the cover art, they will be met with those same tablecloths, that same electric typewriter, that same picture of the woman holding all those pieces of toast. I just saw all of these offers 3 days ago. My head still works pretty good, ya know…I haven’t forgotten the products. SEOs can easily relate to my sentiments here when I say that this is a little bit like seeing those Meta Keywords discussions crop up once a week on your favorite forums. Do you dive right in, eager to discuss, or do you pass right over those threads, yawning, “old hat.”

The Vermont Country Store’s catalog marketing plan is making me think of their inventory as old hat. The first time I flipped through their publication, I was entertained and interested by all the queer and quaint little goodies they stock – 3 years and dozens of catalogs later, I feel bored.
Add to this that they seem to be unconcerned about the number of trees they must be cutting down to produce THIS MANY catalogs and there arises a potential to alienate customers who have come to feel duped by the changing cover art ploy, bored by repetition, and unimpressed by anything resembling environmental sensitivity in this company’s policies.

I’m not looking at their bottom line, of course, trying to figure out how to sell more bottles of Bay Rum Aftershave (refreshing and invigorating), yet I can’t help but wonder if the Vermont Country Store shouldn’t start making more use of the fact that they’ve got a website. Sure, there may still be some Internet-deprived folks living up in the mountains, trotting out to the mailbox every day with fingers crossed that they’ll get yet another print catalog, but times, they are a-changing. To the folks at Vermont Country Store: would you guys really go belly-up if you cut down to a 4-season plan, and focused more on keeping your website updated with those couple of new products you add a year? How about going the SM route and developing profiles on Facebook and such as my friendly general store owner? Offer old-time wisdom about dealing with bunions, unsightly toenails, sour milk or blocked storm drains? Sell-sell-sell is getting tiresome.

The thing is…I still like this company’s inventory. I’d be happy to hear from them once in awhile. If they sent me a catalog each season, I’d likely look through it with pleasure. But now, my only option is to pick up the phone and cut ties with these folks altogether, because I’ve determined I have enough advertising from them sitting on my windowsill to last a lifetime. I tried giving them a call today, but no one answered. No doubt, they are all in the shipping department, feverishly stapling new covers onto last week’s catalogs, getting ready to send me another fine surprise.

Jennifer Convertibles’ Website – Now that’s class!

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

A couple of months ago, I happened to notice an announcement on Barry Schwartz’s company site, Rusty Brick, that they had just redesigned the website for the well-known furniture company, Jennifer Convertibles. Since I spent my last post grinding my teeth over horrific SEO company offers in San Francisco, I thought it would be a nice change of topic to applaud the extremely classy job that a trusted New York firm did on designing a website. Take a look at the Jennifer Convertibles site!
Continue Reading »

Google Local Search – Secondary Information Results

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

Today, I hopped over into Google’s Local Search in Google Maps to take a look at how a client of ours is doing. Local Search is key to this client’s visibility on the web as they are an elder care provider, and obviously, this means that they provide their services within a specific geographic region.

The search I performed was for elder care home sonoma county Continue Reading »

Cascadian Farm – paying attention to the E. coli spinach crisis?

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Cascadian Farm – Web Business Review. In that review I expressed my concern about the holes Cascadian Farm puts in its frozen foods packages to let the air out in processing. To me it doesn’t seem like it would require the mind of Albert Einstein to realize that if stuff can come out of a perforation, stuff can also get into one. E.coli bacteria was only one of the possible concerns I listed in my letter to the Cascadian Food corporation, which they did not chose to respond to.

And now we’ve got the E. coli spinach catastrophe on our hands. As of today, the tragic death count from may have moved up to 2 people, and over 130 people across the U.S. have been made violently ill. Is Cascadian Farm paying attention to this? Continue Reading »

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