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Keep it on the download—managing expectations

The media often latches on to a new, “revolutionary” technology long before it becomes available to the public. What this means is that for a long time people are excited about an idea—like downloadable movies—but then when it finally comes out the service is much more limited than the hype would have you believe. At times like these, a good communications strategy is key.

Take Netflix. Some people say that DVDs will soon go the way of the eight track and that Netflix is operating with a business model that’s yesterday’s news. Until recently, lots of people were wondering why Netflix didn’t move to a download-on-demand model. Sure, the movie studios are resistant, and not everyone has the bandwidth required—but if the iTunes store can do it, why can’t Netflix?

Well, Netflix recently answered with a video-on-demand feature initially available to only a small number of customers. The service will be rolled out, for free, to all Netflix subscribers in the coming months.

Netflix is definitely moving in the right direction—but already there are gripes that the catalog is so small, that the service only works in Internet Explorer on a Windows computer, and that downloads are only available to a small number of Netflix subscribers. Yes, it’s childish because Netflix is doing this for free (but not out of the kindness of their hearts, we’re sure), but imagine your neighbor gets this feature you’ve been yearning for—and you don’t.

The lesson here is that when your customers are really excited about something, make sure you communicate the “how” and “why” around your product launch. Netflix could have managed expectations better—the company only offered customers a vague message saying it plans to roll this out to all customers by June 2007.

Expectations from Netflix users are sky high: The company has a huge catalog of movies, it already has relationships with movie studios, and, most importantly, what took them so long? Netflix was once a shining star, and if anyone can pull out a second act, they can. In the entertainment business, it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’ve done lately.


February 22, 2007 - Posted by | Content Strategy, Customer Care, Tendo View

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