Friday, June 20, 2008

Seriously? That's your excuse?

So, if you use Netflix at all, you might have heard about this insane plan to eliminate profiles. They were neat, a way to organize lists, like one for movies, one for series. Or one for each family member. I needed it because Netflix also has a limit of 500 disks per queue, and I am over that limit. So, the other day they announced that these would be eliminated. Completely. With no migration. They just disappear in two months. Check out this particular reason, though. Yeah, all the usual, but also:
...keeping our service as simple and as easy to use as possible. Too many members found the feature difficult to understand and cumbersome, having to consistently log in and out of the website. Continuing to maintain the profiles feature for the passionate few who use it (including myself) distracts us from the mission of presenting to all our members the easiest way to find the best titles for them...
Okay, the system was somewhat cumbersome. They assumed each was a person, so you had to have a different email (username) and password, and it did some other odd stuff like the first profile is the account owner, so when signed onto another you cannot get to account details stuff. But they are claiming that this poor design means that the whole function is worthless. What? This is a terrible way to use design to justify product features. How about a redesign? How about labeling and marketing it correctly, so more than 2% of users can find it. BTW, I think that's a pretty good use rate for such a poorly-communicated service. To clarify, I am not totally talking out of my ass here. I have designed a few profile-based account management systems, mostly for much, much larger organizations than Netflix. It's not that hard, and it's extremely a better idea to fix than discard. Oh, and the users who employ such systems in detail are the good customers. For an MRC based industry, it's always true that churn is expensive; why annoy these folks. I for one have been a pleased (evangelistic) customer for over 7 years, yet I am willing to consider other options now. Okay, I did participate in turning off a system once. At Sprint we were required once to give the ability to customize the account management screen. People could close portlets and move them around. I had poor hopes, but we worked as hard as possible to make it easy. And it tested okay, so no design issues to speak of. And... it was used at appallingly low rates. One year post launch, while working the next release, we checked and found about 5,000 people had ever customized it. We had 7-8 million customers at the time, and maybe 3 million regular users of the web account management system. That's (appx) 0.0016%. This we tossed without regret. 2%? We'd have kept it for that use rate.


Jonathan said...

"Oh, and the users who employ such systems in detail are the good customers."

But heres the rub:

You are defining "good" customer as one who uses the service a lot. That, of course makes sense in a traditional pay per use model.
But to Netflix, a good customer is one who uses the service rarely.
I'm guessing Netflix will be happy to say goodbye to the high volume, low margin customers who take advantage of the individual queue.

shoobe01 said...

Actually, I was assuming they were high MRC customers. If you have 5 queues, you probably need at least 5 out.

I think the high MRC/low-use as good customer is the same for most industries, such as mobile telephony. NF is no different, so it's a well-established model.