Pretty much everyone should have heard about Netflix’s customer service train wreck. Universities will cover this case study in business classes for the next generation. Shares of the company have slid around 40% since the CEO announced plans to split the DVD mail order and online streaming into separate services with separate billing. This comic strip pretty much sums up customer sentiment.
As someone in marketing and public relations, I could write for hours and hours about how idiotic it is to dilute the Netflix brand by renaming the DVD-by-mail service “Quickster.” And I could go on and on about how stupid it is to make customers who want to pay and additional 60% each month go through the process of re-registering with both Netflix and Quickster. But the jewel in the fool’s crown is forcing existing customers to justify two separate bills each month.
Whoever thought that making customers opt into a second bill for the same old service during a stagnant economy should be forced to dig his or her own professional grave with a plastic spoon. But I’m not going to get into all of that. I want to talk about why I’m walking away, and it has less to do with price than flagging service. I think it’s the reason most people are walking away, despite the sound and fury that’s overloading THETWITTERS!
I was a pretty early adopter of Netflix. I signed up in early 2003 and never looked back. I’ve always been a bit if a filmophile, so Netflix’s mail-order DVD service seemed like a natural fit for someone like me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that to game the system and ensure I got the new releases, I had to drop my movies in the mail on Saturday or Monday morning to secure the best titles, which almost always were released on Tuesdays. Being someone who’s seen thousands of films, I wasn’t very interested in the company’s back-catalog of older titles. Sure, I ended up watching the noteworthy classics that had somehow eluded me, and I introduced the wife to some of my favorite films, mini-series, and cult classics (the original Omen movies were my first three rentals). But I should stress that I was a customer who wanted to see new releases.
As the ranks of Netflix swelled, their customer service struggled to keep pace. On top of that, rates fluctuated. There was the price war with Blockbuster’s newly introduced delivery service that lowered my rate for a while. As usual, the prices went back up. When Netflix was getting squeezed by the studios and was fighting brick-and-mortar and cable service competition for titles, I didn’t mind loading my queue with shows like Jericho, Heroes, Mad Men, and anything else I’d heard was pretty good. I still thought the service was worth the money, and I didn’t mind waiting weeks, if not months, to get some of the newer releases.
But months and months of waiting for months and months to get a single movie goes a long way toward rubbing the polish off of a shiny, new toy. A couple of years ago, Netflix lost much of its luster in my opinion.
When the rates increased still further earlier this year, I dropped down to the two-DVD plan. I figured that not only was the quality of Hollywood films suffering, but so was Netflix’s ability to get me the few decent films I actually wanted to see. Twice in the past few months, I’ve had so many titles wait-listed that I had nothing mailed to me when they received my DVD.
I understand that Netflix is trying to position themselves for the future, and I understand that they’re once again getting squeezed by the studios and forced into a bidding war with their competitors. But to think that their online service as it exists today, which is really only good for old movies, shows and documentaries, is somehow going to compete for my entertainment dollars, is pretty ridiculous. Maybe if I didn’t have cable, Netflix’s online streaming service would be a decent substitute. But I have cable. And HBOGo. And the internet. And a well-stocked local library.
Since Netflix can no longer meet my needs, and since their online service is at least five years away from being something that draws my attention, I’m ending my relationship with the company. That I get to do so as a form of protest during their epic public relations meltdown is mere icing on the cake.
My friends and I used to go to all-you-can-eat buffets in college and say to one another, “let’s eat so much food that they rethink this concept.” Well, I kind of did that with Netflix.
During my time as a subscriber, I went through around 1335 DVDs, and that’s not counting the movies I watched online. That’s around 160 DVD rentals per year. I’ve rated 3039 films, which is probably pretty close to the total number of films I’ve ever seen. That might suggest that I have no social life, but many of those films were watched after the wife went to bed. I’ve never been a big sleeper, and I’ve always been put off by the “reality” TV shows that thrived over the last decade.
I’d say I got my money’s worth out of Netflix. But for every one of me, there were probably four other subscribers who paid the same monthly rate and let their unopened DVDs languish on top of the TV for months at a time. So you should’t feel too sorry for Netflix. I don’t.
So, goodbye Netflix. It’s been fun, but there’s a time and place for everything. And your time with me has passed.