Manufacturer Of Buggy 'Kobo Touch' E-Reader Manages Customer Complaints By… Hiding All Online Reviews
from the there's-no-hole-on-earth-big-enough-to-bury-The-Internet dept
Quick quiz on crisis management, internet-style:
Exercise 1: The product you’ve just introduced is a buggy mess, short on content and backed with terrible customer service. What do you do?
a.) Bite the bullet and start handing out refunds
b.) Start patching like hell and fire your current Customer Service team
c.) Drain all bank accounts and reorganize under the name Net Sortie, LLC.
d.) Whistle nonchalantly while sweeping bad reviews under the rug
If you answered “d,” then congratulations! You’ve lost the battle and the war!
No matter how many companies line up to play the “I’d Like to Lose at the Internet” game and walk away empty shells of their former selves, there’s always another player ready to step up and take a swing at wishing its problems into the Google Cache cornfield.
This week’s contender is Rakuten and its Kobo Touch Reader. Billed as sort of a preemptive strike against the expected arrival of Amazon’s Kindle in Japan, the Kobo began shipping last week. That’s the last of the good news.
Rakuten launched the Kobo Touch in Japan with the expectation that they would dominate their home market. They are native to the country, and Rakuten does have a sizable retail presence there. Given their technical and CS resources, you’d think they would have been able to pull this off.
Unfortunately, it now looks like Rakuten has paved the way for Amazon to dominate yet another ebook market.This launch is rapidly turning into a debacle and it’s going to damage Rakuten’s reputation. And according to some of the tweets I’ve seen (in Japanese) it already is.
So, what went wrong? Well, many, many things. First off, while the firmware was solid, the desktop software was a disaster. If installation failed on the PC, a rather common situation according to the reviews, it pretty much made the Kobo Reader useless. Secondly, Rakuten’s promotional work pointed towards 30,000 titles being available at launch. Instead, there were 18,894 titles and, as is pointed out in the comments, many of those were public domain. Last, but not least, purchasers now holding a shiny brick were treated badly by Rakuten’s customer service.
Rakuten was understandably perturbed by this failed launch and decided the best course of action would be to pretend it just wasn’t happening.
It’s been just under a week since the Kobo Touch started shipping in Japan, and things are going so well that Rakuten has removed from their website all the reviews of the Kobo Touch.
No, seriously, all of the reviews are down – both good and bad. I suppose there were too many people writing things like “I’m going to buy a Kindle” and that upset someone at Rakuten.
For a tech company, you’d think Rakuten would be a bit more familiar with how this “The Internet” works. You can’t just pull the electronic wool over everyone’s eyes and hope to sneak away undetected. The Internet never forgets. And even if it could, there’s always a helpful person or two willing to remind it where all that stuff is stashed.
Luckily one of Rakuten’s potential customers tipped me to the story, including giving me a link to a blog that had collected responses and a screenshot of the review page before Raskuten removed it. That’s why I can show you things like this:
If you can’t see the image above, it says that the Kobo Touch has a 3 star rating largely due to the vast number of 1 star reviews.
And more help arrives:
Update: My source found a Google Cache page of reviews. Thanks, Bibo!
This response is so wrong and yet so common. Donna Barstow, law schools, the freakin’ medical community. Pretty much anyone who’s ever heard the term Streisand Effect whispered in their general direction has attempted to delete damning content, either of their own or created by others, only to find it resurrected in Google’s Cache or the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. It’s definitely a knee-jerk response, but it seems to have a steep learning curve attached to it. Kobo screwed up and then doubled down by hiding the reviews. What does that say about the company and its future relationship with its customers?
Folks, they took the reviews down from the website so new customers wouldn’t be warned about the many problems. I want you to look past the fact they did it and think about how customers will feel once they discover the deception. That is what will make this a major debacle and not merely an embarrassment for Rakuten.
A bad launch could be recovered from. This is closer to being a systematic effort to lie to their customers. Okay, eventually people will forgive Rakuten, but in the short run this debacle could drive readers to Amazon.
Rakuten, by botching its launch, hurt itself a little. By covering it up, it did a ton of self-inflicted damage. You can’t just flip “trust” on and off like a light switch. It’s earned. And if it wanted to take on Amazon, it couldn’t afford a mistake of this magnitude.