con-sist-en-cy [kuhn-sis-tuhn-see]- "steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc."
My Hitachi plasma television has been acting a little off lately. Red lines streaming across the screen is not exactly what I want in a large, high quality plasma tv. What to do?
Call Hitachi service? A tv repair shop? My neighbor, Mike? All reasonable but in my search for options here in Richmond, I came across a most interesting site, JustAnswer.com. As the tag line promises, "ask a question, get an answer asap!" Upon reviewing the site, it seemed that it was credible and possibly offered me a cost-effective solution to my problem (especially relative to the likely high cost of a repair person).
Here's how it works: type in your question, choose a category (tv repair, cars, pets, etc.) and indicate what you'll be willing to pay if you are satisfied with the answer (it gives you a few payment amount suggestions to choose from). Next, enter your credit card/PayPal account information and the agreed to payment amount is put into a holding account for release when satisfied. Based on several factors (site content, site layout, ease of evaluation, breadth and depth, and, most importantly, cost) I decided to try JustAnswer.com to see if it could help me with my problem.
After creating my question and selecting "electronics- tv expert" I was asked to create an account (standard email and password). Next, I selected an amount I would be willing to pay if I were satisfied with the response ($17). I entered my credit card information and my question was on its way.
Within a few moments I had two emails from JustAnswer.com: a traditional "welcome" email followed by a confirmation of deposit of my $17. The positive elements of these emails are that they were timely and they recognized the key events that mattered to me: my account was valid and they had my money. The poor thing about these emails (remember, these are the first communications to me, a new customer, and one deals with my cash) is that they had a completely different look at feel. See for yourself:
I actually did a little bit of a double-take when I got these. Same company, delivered at the same time, originated from the same transaction, yet night and day in design. The first, a standard "welcome" email, looks exactly what I'd expect from a consumer web property- it is simple, clean, included pertinent information, and is generally appealing. To the contrary, the second design looks like something created in Microsoft Word and saved in .html. So you first demonstrate to me that you can meet my expectations, only to create significant doubt a moment later with a follow-up email. Completely avoidable.
My thought, when I received these, was that I would do a quick little blurb on JustAnswer.com's lack of consistency. But then it gave me a little more to add to the story.
No, the company did not screw up the answer or fail to give me one. The person who handled my request, in fact, seemed to know exactly what the issue is and was very thorough in his response. It did seem a bit odd, however that his response included me possibly soldering a few things on the tv (did I mention that it is a wall-mounted 55 inch, 210 pound television? No chance in hell I am touching the damn thing). But overall, I felt that the response delivered upon the promise. I got my response: I need to call a repair person.
Built into the web page that included my answer was the ability to accept the answer and free up the $17 in deposit to pay the online tv repair person. I did't get to it yesterday, unfortunately, but because I was happy with the response I intended to today. Then I got this email from the company:
Clearly, a reminder email sent to me ~24 hours post my receiving the response to my question, prompting me to release payment to the tv expert that assisted me with the simple click on a link. Hmmm... something does not feel exactly right about this email. What could it be?
"This pays the Expert the $17 you promised." (double underlines added by me for emphasis...)
Whoa there, cowboy. I promised? Did you actually write that? Let's scroll up and look at the email again. (2 second pause). Yep, there is it. ".. you promised." I think we have disconnect here, team.
It may just be me, but I was under the impression that payment, while likely based on the promoted quality of JustAnswer.com's experts, was not guaranteed. I seem to remember that it was my decision, based on my level of satisfaction with the engagement (timeliness, quality, tone, etc.). I wonder where I got that impression?
Could it be from the company's home page that promotes in the "how it works" section that the last step in the process is that one can accept the answer "if satisfied"? This does not read "accept- you promise".
Or could it be that I got the impression of control and choice in the set-up flow where JustAnswer.com asks you to choose an "amount you will pay if you are satisfied with the answer"? (red box added by me for emphasis). So let's be beyond clear- I did not make this up. JustAnswer.com wanted me to think that there is no requirement of payment, no guarantee of payment, no promise of payment. It actually aligned its message to me, the new customer, around that key point.
Part of JustAnswer.com's value proposition, which is clearly emphasized for the new user, is that the customer has control over if they pay, based on their satisfaction with their answer. This is very compelling as it gives the consumer a "no risk" option towards solving their problem; they have a choice. But this element of JustAnswer.com's value proposition is challenged and questioned by the content of the email it sends to remind customers that they have not authorized payment yet. In essence, the company is trying to emotionally bully the user into paying, thus destroying the element of control. There was no promise of payment so to say otherwise is not only factually untrue, it is just plain stupid.
As for me, I was pleased with the answer I got and impressed with the business model. Will I use JustAnswer.com again or recommend it to a friend? No, I can do neither. If this is how it treats a brand new customer, I can only image the fun experienced by an existing one (sarcasm included).
IF YOU'VE READ THIS FAR, CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION AND SHARE YOUR COMMENTS...