Post updated below
We recently moved and moved our newspaper subscription with us. A day without a newspaper is a day without sunshine, right? It came without fail for three days, but then we were missed today. I admit to being spoiled because our carrier at our old house was exceptional (and we tipped her for her great service, too).
I called to let the paper know that we had been missed and the recording reminded me that my account was being credited. I didn’t have the option of having that day’s newspaper delivered. I say I was reminded because, as editor of the newspaper at the time, I was involved in the discussion about making this change in practice.
It was two or three years ago, and the paper was cutting costs. It’s expensive to send people out to deliver missed and damaged papers. Still, I argued against it. My position was this: If a customer takes the time to call us to tell us they want the newspaper, our response should be a mix of joy and gratitude. We should hop in the car immediately and get the paper to them. Essentially, I said, the customer is telling us that he or she values the newspaper enough to want it today, but that we don’t value it, or them, enough to get it to them.
Why would a company do that?
In the end, I said, in addition to letting them know that a day without a newspaper is OK by us, we’re also training them to do without us.
So I mentioned missing the paper this morning the social networks. One respondent said, “I’d say it takes about three days to develop a new habit and not miss the old one at all.”
Another: “You’re not alone when it comes to no paper this morning. Too bad existing subscribers have to pay to access e-edition, and when you get there it’s really hard to navigate.”
Another: “We’ve signed up for Sunday delivery, and it’s been incredibly spotty. Although they occasionally make it up by giving us two, or a Tuesday edition….”
Another: “Lousy delivery has been a plague on newspapers even during the good times. In Dallas, one of the last true newspaper wars, the title went to the Dallas Morning News (and the death of the Dallas Times Herald) more by the latter’s crappy circulation department than anything else.”
I know that the News & Record isn’t alone in this practice. I understand that many other papers give people a choice of crediting their account or getting a paper “redelivered.” I didn’t press enough numbers on the phone to be put through to a real human being so perhaps I could have requested immediate delivery. But the recording didn’t give me that option.
I had always known that bad service was the primary reason that people gave when asked why they cancelled the paper. I know that as long as I was at the paper, the circulation department worked hard on customer service. There’s still some opportunity, particularly since the financial side of the business is picking up a bit.
A post script on this: After mentioning on Facebook and Twitter that I had trouble with the delivery of the paper, you know what response I got from the main office? Silence. If you believe that your success lies in going to where people are gathered — and if you’re a media organization you damn well better — there is an opportunity there.
Wednesday afternoon update: The circulation director tells me that the paper now will deliver the paper “again” in Greensboro. (The voice prompts don’t give the caller that option so it must be done when talking to a human.)