Tag Archives: customer

Claim for the Award for the Most Eager To-Be Subscriber of The Economist


There’s social media, omni-channel and customer experience. Three buzzwords of the last decades, together with a portion of stubbornness that make me claim the ‘Award for the Most Eager To-Be Subscriber of The Economist’. Read further to understand my claim.

Last week, while I was scrolling my Facebook feed, I came across of an interesting offer of The Economist: “Get 12 weeks of subscription for only € 20”. For a weekly magazine, that’s quite a good deal to find out if the content is good for you.

I checked out the offer and was looking for the fine print. The catch behind the deal. Would it be an automatic renewal which I couldn’t disable for a year? Or would it be possible to just cancel the subscription after the 12 week try-out period? In Belgium, this is a very common formula, certainly now in the age of declining print media. You get a try-out for a month or longer, and after this period you cancel and try another paper/magazine.

Because I couldn’t find an answer to my question in the fine print, I added my question in the comment section. After a day without a reply, I decided to contact The Economist via Facebook. The Facebook page told that The Economist “responds typically very fast” to messages. That’s perfect, I thought, so I launched my question via Facebook chat. Indeed I got a message immediately, but it was clear I was talking with to an automated reply, maybe already a chat bot? There was nobody on the other side of the line to answer my message. I tried a few times (maybe there’s a time zone difference?), but still no answer, except for the default reply.

No problem, let’s try a more traditional channel: e-mail. I mailed the support desk and received almost immediate a reply. A reply which told me that they couldn’t help me because I had no 8-digit Customer Reference Number (CRN). The received e-mails without a CRN, login email and news email in the contents “would not reach us”. Sounds like a catch-22, doesn’t it?

I couldn’t believe this, so I retried with a message via their Facebook page. Still no human on the other end of the line though.

Next time I saw the 12-week offer, I added a response in the comments + used tagging to make sure they got a notification:

"@[The Economist] Hello, I would like to try out your 12week offer but only for the 12 weeks. Is it possible to cancel after this 12 weeks? This is the third channel I use to get an answer to my question. Hopefully with success. Many thanks, Karel"

Because nobody is responding to my message, I decided to use a third channel and send out my first tweet to The Economist. No success.

After a few days, I started with responding to each message that The Economist page published. Each time I added the same reply:

"@[The Economist] Hello, I would like to try out your 12week offer but only for the 12 weeks. Is it possible to cancel after this 12 weeks? This is the third channel I use to get an answer to my question. Hopefully with success. Many thanks, Karel"

No response from Facebook. I tried again with a second, less polite, tweet and a second email.

tweet

And you might have guessed it … no answer. After a while I got a bit annoyed and used Facebook to express it…

By now I have send 2 e-mails, 2 tweets, 7 Facebook chat messages and commented on 4 posts of The Economist. Without receiving an answer from any of these 4 channels. And I’m still not taking benefit of the 12 week try-out offer of The Economist.

That’s why I dedicate this last blog and tweet to claim the ‘Award for Most Eager To-Be Subscriber of The Economist’. Chriss Stibbs or Zanny Minton Beddoes may invite me to London for the hand-out. I would be happy to share my customer experience in their omni-channel offer and (lack of) social media support.

Many thanks!

PS: also thanks to Arne for helping me see the humor in this situation 🙂

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Is your innovation open, closed or maybe open-closed?


From in-house, closed innovation to open innovation. The story of a small electronic devices company ‘In Die Tate’ that learned from their past and took a swing at the future in a new market.

‘In Die Tate’ is a seasoned manufacturer of small electronic devices. In the 2000s they survived the dotcom bubble with a clear vision of the future and investors that kept their faith in them. Recently ‘In Die Tate’ launched a new corporate strategy that aimed at the tablet market. Together with this new strategy the organization reorganized and grouped their employees together in departments like amongst others ‘Input Devices’, ‘Graphics’, ‘Connectiviy’ and ‘Design’.

For years ‘In Die Tate’ has been innovating in-house. It all started a few years after the launch of their first product when they noticed they had to keep improving and investing. All in order to keep up with the ever faster changing electronics market.

Closed innovationThere was an innovation team for each department, but soon they discovered that this wasn’t sufficient. The innovation teams of the departments teamed up and fresh opinions lead to new insights. A reviewer of a popular IT magazine once called it ‘Closed Innovation’, as they still weren’t involving the outside world.

Time went by and when the calendar hit the new decennium, the innovative teams started to know each other very well, maybe too well. At every brainstorm they saw the same people again. Somebody started calling them ‘the pappenheimers’.
The Graphics department needed fresh insights and cooperated with external parties, trainers and keynote speakers. And so did the Connectivity and other departments. Some even involved their clients and competitors. They called it ‘Open Innovation’, but somehow they knew it was still limited to certain groups of people, the pappenheimers & friends. At the coffee machines, the general feeling was more ‘Open Closed Innovation’ as they experienced that they were missing opportunities.

open - closed innovationNews ideas and insights came and the first tablets were designed. The Graphics department heard of the successes of the Connectivity department and the latter was impressed by the awards the Design department received. But there was still something missing. The human capital at ‘In Die Tate’ was still not used at its full potential.

open innovationOne day the Graphics department decided to open up their sessions. Everybody in the organization was free to join the information sessions and if they wanted they could even participate in brainstorm sessions. And a success it was indeed! Little did the Graphics department know about the ideas the colleagues from Design had! The organisation learned from the success of the Graphics department and opened up for the rest of the organisation. All information sessions, external speakers, libraries and brainstorm sessions were open to the masses now. To keep it manageable they used limited available seats and the organizing department was in the lead. They were currently working at full potential and called it ‘Open Innovation’.

Soon they noticed the customers that were involved promoting the organization. Because they had the feeling they really contributed, the customers started to promote the product as one of their own.

The future looked bright and after a merger with an organization that develops apps, they renamed their organization to ‘Ahead of The Curve’. With their new inward-out innovation strategy, ‘Ahead of The Curve’ is ready for a surviving in a volatile, uncertain and ever-changing world.

You might wonder whether ‘In Die Tate’ would have survived and how ‘Ahead of The Curve’ is doing today. Well, that might be your challenge. There are ‘In Die Tate’ organizations everywhere and in every period of time. Some of them cease to exist, others join internal and external forces and become organizations that are ready for the future, like ‘Ahead of The Curve’ .

Special thanks to my colleague Koen for reviewing this business tale.

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Change, the emotional roller coaster, and user reviews


Customers emotional roller coaster

Customers emotional roller coaster

When buying new stuff, you as customer go to the emotion roller coaster of change. Let’s take a look what’s the effect on user reviews and how you can use it for your organisation.

We talked a lot about change and resistance on this blog and, of course, its correlation. There’s an old saying “The only one that likes change is a wet baby”, but we know that this isn’t correct. People change all the time: new work, new friends, new home, new city, etc. We can agree that there’s resistance to the change when the change isn’t welcomed by the ones that undergo it. In most cases when people don’t want to change, it’s a case of bad or not enough communication.

On the other hand, there are changes that we choose for ourselves. Think of, among others, buying a new smart phone or a new car. In those (and many other) examples we are free to choose to stay or to change. To keep our device or decide to use the new one. When we choose for a new device we still go through the same acceptance period as an unwanted change, only the lows won’t be that low.

As example, let’s zoom in on buying a new car. After careful selection between different models you decide to invest a large amount. You may even have to take a consumer credit for it. The tension builds up while waiting some weeks, maybe months for your new purchase. The first days will be great. No, they will be amazing. The car is better that your old car and drives very smooth. If you would write a review (eg. on a website) at this point, it would be good to great. Your judgement is clouded by the ‘buyers high’.

After a while you start experiencing the negative parts: the seating is not as you expected, the dead angle is not good visible and the door list blocks your side in the turns. You wonder how did you miss this while testing. If you would write a review at this point, it would be bad. Your review would highlight the negative parts and lacks objectivity.

Once you went completely through this acceptation curve some time has passed and as a not-so-new-anymore owner you’re quite reluctant to putting effort in writing an old review.

So you may start to wonder how you as an organisation can use this emotional roller coaster in your advantage. It seems like there isn’t any time suited for an objective review (in the way that a subjective review can be objective). As a potential customer you are also confronted with this. Dependent of at which point the reviewer was on his acceptance curve, the review will be dominated by his current feelings. So you cannot use the review to make your decision. Only if you’re aware of it you can see the extremes are documented, the highs and the lows. As a test, open any user review section of an online smart phone shop and browse to the reviews.

A Dutch car website, Autoweek.nl, has found a nice solution for this. On their website new car owners can create an online diary and document their experiences with their newly bought car. The user can add reviews to his online car diary when he wants and the reviews are sorted by mileage. Because of the diary speaks to the user’s intrinsic motivation, it’s kept up to date in many cases. The diary gives an overview of the highs and lows of the user experience and sometimes also covers exceptional cases that are not covered in a one-time review after buying. For example, a long trip to Austria in wintertime.

Further, other users can react on the reviews in a separate comment section too and they can rate the diary.

An example of such a diary can be found here: http://www.autoweek.nl/autoreview/35177/bmw-118d-business-line

When buying a car these diaries are thé source for getting your honest and balanced user reviews.  Give it a try!

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Direct feedback with a customer experience meter


To measure is to know. How to measure your customers’ experience in the blink of an eye.

Customer Experience Meter - Dublin Airport

Customer Experience Meter – Dublin Airport

On the way back from a business trip to Dublin I came across this customer experience meter (see picture). While we often are thinking long and hard for the one customer satisfaction KPI, the security of Dublin Airport proves it can be done very easy.

The customer satisfaction meter actually displays four types of moods which you can you use to rate your own experience with the airport security. No feedback forms, no interviews, no survey. And more important: no time lost in your time critical journey to your gate.

As I walked by, the mood to pick was a nobrainer for me (very satisfied) and without the time i took for the picture I would have lost zero seconds travel time.

This mood meter also looks like a great idea as customer satisfaction meter in any shop, or even as employee satisfaction meter in your office. After a day’s hard work, the colleagues can vote how their they day was, without loosing time as their journey home starts. Ideal for in major cultural change project, I would say.

I just wonder what happens when you hit the red button (very dissatisfied). Will the organisation pick up the signal? What will they do with it? Will there be a security officer for releasing me of my specific dissatisfaction? How will they capture the more elaborate feedback needed to improve their processes?

Additional reading

Team barometers

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Maak ambassadeurs van je klanten (NL)


De unieke aanpak van het telecombedrijf Mobile Vikings maakt van hun klanten geen promotors, maar ware ambassadeurs. Mobile Vikings evangelist, Hans Similion, kwam met passie hun speciale aanpak uit de doeken doen.

Mobile Vikings

Mobile Vikings

Tijdens een change agent event kwam Mobile Vikings evangelist, Hans Similon, spreken over de unieke aanpak van Mobile Vikings. Mobile Vikings is een klein bedrijfje met grote ambities, namelijk gratis mobiel Internet aanbieden voor iedereen. Ze zijn opgestart na enkele ambitieuze pogingen van Frank Bekkers en Hans om gratis mobiel Internet te verkrijgen via onderhandelingen met de bekende Belgische telecom operatoren, Proximus, Mobistar en Base. Omdat de bekende telecomreuzen geen heil zagen in gratis mobiel Internet voor iedereen zagen Frank en Hans als enige oplossing om zelf een bedrijfje op te starten.

Mobile Vikings is geen gewoon bedrijf op gebied van klantenwerving, marketing en management. Het heeft zich ontdaan (onthouden) van de gladde verkopers, flashship stores en grote marketing budgetten.

Mobile Vikings zet minder in op marketing en verkoop, maar meer op het helpen van klanten en klantenretentie. Zo is hun helpdesk een echte HELPdesk en wordt er niet stiekem aan verkoop gedaan. Ze proberen alle klanten binnen de 24u een antwoord te bieden, ongeacht het gebruikte communicatiekanaal (telefoon, email, Twitter, Facebook, …). Ze zetten hiervoor ook hun hele team in; in het weekend durft Hans ook wel eens achter het keyboard te kruipen.

De werving van nieuwe klanten wordt voor vooral gedaan door hun klanten zelf, als ambassadeur. Elke nieuwe klant krijgt extra belkrediet als ze een andere klant aanbrengen. Ze waren hiermee de eersten op de markt die er een werkend business model mee maakten en het heeft hun geen windeieren gelegd nu ze tussen de 2 en 5% marktaandeel hebben. Trouwe klanten worden verder extra beloond op events zoals een BBQ voor het Pukkelpop festival. Dat Mobile Vikings een ware aanhang heeft, bewijzen de statistieken op Facebook: het bedrijf bevindt zich in de top van de meest besproken bedrijven naast grote multinationals. Dat deze aanhang werkelijk trouwe volgers zijn uit zich in real life events die ze regelmatig organiseren.

Ik zag in een uurtje een sneak preview van een ondernemer die met passie zijn werkwijze kwam uitleggen aan een geïnteresseerd publiek. Het werd zo overtuigend gebracht dat het aanstekelijk werkte: op het eind van de sessie hadden we allemaal een viking helm op. Mobile Vikings is een modern bedrijfje dat van de meest moderne technieken gebruikt maakt: crowdsourcing, co-creation, pop-up stores en conversation management. De andere telecomoperatoren hebben ondertussen al door dat ze er ook voordeel uit halen een deel van de Mobile Vikings aanpak te kopiëren.

De ambitie van Mobile Vikings is 2 tot 5% van de markt te halen … maar dan wereldwijd, grapt Hans nog even.

To be continued!

Meer weten

https://www.mobilevikings.com

http://limburg.jongeondernemervanhetjaar.be/nl/genomineerden/d/detail/hans-similon

Boek: The Conversation Manager

Boek: The Conversation Company

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Kanban used for knowledge sharing


In the aftermath of the financial crisis, times remain hard and organizations struggle with balancing resources vs savings. When work volumes decline, head count will follow and this creates a knowledge gap. Profiles become more generic and the work floor needs to invest in knowledge building without budget for it.

We already described the use of kanban for setting priorities in “From push to pull for task assignments”. In this post we describe how almost the same kanban system can be used for building a shared knowledge base.

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Kanban

The first steps to kanban are that teams make flows (value streams) of the work that progresses during their job.

To illustrate, typical IT work progresses from ToDo via Develop/Build to Test.

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

The Kanban technique makes the whole process visible, but also adds certain constraints:

  • The number of concurrent tasks can be limited per phase, project and/or person.
  • There is priority queuing before tasks are taken up by the team.

An example of limiting concurrent tasks per phase:

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

Priority queuing adds a step before the normal flow actual starts:

ToDo

Priority ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

4

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

The advantage of priority queuing is that it can be used together with the customer, but it can also be used for sharing knowledge.

Building a knowledge base

People tend to have the tendency to pick tasks that they know, that are familiar to them. The pitfall here is that after a while you get very specialized profiles. In good times this isn’t a problem because there’s work enough for everybody, but when times get rough and your team is decreased…

To overcome this pitfall, make the agreement with your team members that they also have to pick up tasks which are not their specialty. To give focus, you can assign one or two extra systems, languages, environments, … they can take up. To assist them in the process, assign a coach from the team which has the needed knowledge.

Make sure you follow-up in your team huddles to check what their experience is and where the approach can be adjusted.

Have fun!

Additional reading

Kanban & scrum – making the best of both

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Gold plating – not all gold is wanted


Gold plating with coffee

Gold plating with coffee

On a cold winter morning when the train had a big delay, I decided to have a coffee in the railway station and pass the time a bit more warm than planned. There was a coffee shop, The Coffee Club, which I’d never been there before, so in the spirit of the “Holy Coffee Week” I decided to give it a try.A quick look at my watch showed that I still had 7 minutes to get the coffee and make it back to the platform, which should be plenty. Further I was the only customer at the moment, so it shouldn’t give a trouble.

I ordered a cappuccino to go and was stunned by the spectacle playing out right before my eyes. The attendant was doing his very best (and I’m really serious about this) to stun me with the coffee. The coffee (and milk foam) was ready in a jiffy, but then it started: added cacao powder, adding some sort of liquid chocolate and creating a figure on it. On the picture on the right you can see which piece of art resulted on top of my coffee.

I must admit: it’s a great piece of work and it might be impressive in the right context, but at that moment I was in a rush to catch my train. My body language was sending many signals that I didn’t have time for this (his?) performance, but the attendant had only eye for creating the one best cappuccino.  In the mean time customers were piling up behind me and they also didn’t appreciate the extra waiting time.

Anyway, after he handed over the cappuccino I paid, said thanks and put the plastic top on the coffee to protect it from spilling. It was like wiping the dirty floor with a Da Vinci.

Gold plating

So what’s about the gold (in the title)? The performance the attendant did for me is also known as “gold plating”. Gold plating is when you’re delivering extra features, extra work, extra enhancements of which you think the customer is waiting for. It’s creating a pixel perfect website. It’s adding an extra GPS power plug-in the back of your vehicle. Summarized: gold plating is adding extra stuff the customer didn’t ask for or is not expecting.

The problem with gold plating is that it’s always at the expense of some thing else. If you can remember the project management triangle which has three constraints: scope, time and budget (remark: there is actually a fourth one, quality, often put in the middle of the triangle). In the case of gold plating you’re adding more scope. Scope that the customer didn’t ask for, but still has to pay one way or another.

Project Management Triangle

Project Management Triangle

Customer needs vs wants

So how can you avoid this? How can you know more about your customers, their needs and their expectations? These blog entries will help you on the way:

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A Voice Of the Customer without meeting the customer


With the Voice Of the Customer (VOC) technique you try to capture the wants and needs from your customer(s). There are many ways to capture this: interviews, surveys, etc, and also many techniques to process it: the Kano model, Critical-To-Quality, etc

Sometimes it’s not possible to meet, interview and attune with your customer, but you still want to make sure his wishes are covered. In a seminar I attended, the two speakers, Sue and Nancy, described two techniques for this:

1. Create personas

Personas are fictional characters which you use to evaluate the content you create (independent of the medium used). You could for example create a retired citizen persona, a young child persona, a hipster persona, … During the process you can ask yourself: “How would … use this page?”.

Personas can also be used to test the end project. With the Agile technique for example, they can be used in user stories, that is possible scenarios about the application being used.

The BBC is known for testing their website with this method.

2. Create an empathy map

With an empathy map you can try to get inside the head of your customer: what will he see, hear, think, but also what is his pain and gain from your content?

In the picture below you can find an empathy map we created for the communication of a new corporate strategy project. You can find many tutorials and example cases for empathy maps online, but when we created it, I still had the feeling that we weren’t there.

Empathy map

Empathy map

So we added a second circle (area) to the map: what we as team want the customer be seeing, hearing, thinking, etc. The next step is to compare the actual with the desired behavior and you have a gap which you can close with actions. This way you can make your empathy map actionable.

Empathy map with gap

Empathy map with gap

So if you would ask me “Is a Voice Of the Customer is possible without meeting the customer?”, I would say yes.
What do you think?

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Leading in books – Leadership lessons by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon


Jeff Bezos Fortune

Jeff Bezos Fortune

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, was recently announced by Fortune as Business person of the year 2012. Further, statistics show that 95% of new entrepreneurs are looking at Jeff as example. Reason enough to take a look and see what has got to say. This blog entry describes some leadership lessons shared in an interview published in the Belgian #Vacature magazine (quoted from Fortune Magazine, 2012-11-16).

It would be a lie to state that Jeff Bezos is the one perfect leader (he too has good and bad habits), but I would like to focus on the positive aspects from the article.

Everything with a reason

While it looks like he isn’t coherent to outsiders and stock brokers, Jeff is driven by a coherent vision and bright ideas: everything he does has its place and reason.

We learn the same in literature about leadership: create a vision, a dream that inspires others, and then see how you can make it real.

Customer feedback is key to innovation

Unlike the more common CEO, Jeff spends part of his time processing customer feedback and complaints. It’s surprising that somebody that high in the organisation is studying customer complaints, but Jeff’s argumentation is that one complaint at his desk, represent many other complaints that happened, but didn’t make it to him.

Innovation starts with the customer

You often hear that great ideas are created while in the shower (also described in a previous blog about creativity: Creasophy – the teachings of creativity), but Jeff advises to start thinking about solutions for customers, and not on beating the competition.

I recognize a similar remark in the interview Simon De Cuyper, Belgian triathlon champion, gave in an interview: focus on doing the process and process targets, not only on the end result (more information here: Lessons from triathlon for corporate athletes).

Cost saving and role modelling

Amazon saves costs on stuff like desks, TV commercials and also employee wages. While Jeff probably has a wage that many of us envy, he only earns $ 80 000 a year as CEO of Amazon. This counts for role modelling.

Personal bonuses kill team work

To avoid an ego culture, Amazon does not rewards its employees with bonuses.

Further, the wages may be low (as described above), but employees are paid with stock market options, with as goal stimulating long-term commitment and team work.

Create a pull on the job market

Future employees are eager to start at Amazon and when employed are extremely loyal.

Spread innovation by diverse product line

Amazon offers several products which are not related to each other, at all. While it might be considered as no good selling strategy, Jeff allows it as long as the products are in line with company strategy. The different entities of Amazon are empowered, as it were.

Innovation is key

Jeff considers Amazon as discoverer and other companies as conquerors.

Who writes stays, who copies is promoted (NL: wie schrijft die blijft, wie kopieert promoveert)

Look around for successes and see what you can learn from them. Bezos is not ashamed to admit some product strategies are bluntly copied to the Amazon model, with success (eg. Amazon Mom, MyHabit, etc).

Additional reading

Business person of the year 2012

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Responsiveness by Amazon.com


According to the dictionary responsiveness means:

1. reacting or replying quickly or favourably, as to a suggestion, initiative, etc.
2. reacting to a stimulus
In the context of customer relationship management responsiveness means really listening to the customer and sincerely trying to understand what his needs and requirements are. Responsiveness also means selling the customer a solution that he needs, not what he seem asking for, or what your company may profit best. Eg. as a car dealer you would advise a smaller car instead of the SUV the customer asks for because he said he lives in the city. The customer benefits (the right solution for his needs), but the organisation could have made more profit when selling the (bigger) SUV.

A true case of customer responsiveness…

amazon.com

Last week I have been the subject/witness of a true case of customer responsiveness. The professional network website, LinkedIn.com, decided to do a mass upgrade of the profile pages and discontinued some of the applications that were used by me. For some of those, like the WordPress.com add-in,  I got an email with a heads-up in advance. But I was not informed that my Amazon.com reading list add-in was going to be removed.
So the week after I was surprised to find out that my reading list, which I was maintaining for two years and contained 102 books, was missing in action.
My first step was to contact the LinkedIn customer help desk, but they couldn’t care less and referred me to Amazon.com. Even when I already thought it was a lost case, I decided to give it a try and send the Amazon.com help desk a request. Almost immediately I got a response that they were aware of the problem and the inconvenience, but they would do their best and take up contact again. I was assured my data was kept in the Amazon system. Whew.
And indeed, after about a week I got an email from the Amazon community manager, Amanda S., explaining me how I could restore my data after a simple registration with Shelfari.com and by using the LinkedIn import service they designed.
Why is this a true case of customer responsiveness for me? Because Amazon had no direct interest or direct profit increase by doing this for me. They could easily have passed the buck to LinkedIn and left the users in the cold. Further they have still acted in the interest of their organisation by keeping the link with their customers and in the same time pushing a new, independent web application.

… converted me to a promoter

How could Amazon have gone one step further?  By being proactive (in my case their actions were reactive: a response to my customer complaint). Apparently a colleague who had the same problem, but didn’t report it to help desk, did not receive the email with invitation to join Shelfari.com. But since I was so satisfied after getting my data back, I was happy to send the Shelfari.com invitation to my colleagues.
That’s one up for the Net Promoter Score of Amazon.com 😉
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