Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why eBay is doing well and Yahoo is having problems

I had the opportunity to attend a conference in San Francisco on e-mail marketing. The most interesting aspect of this conference was the difference in attitude shared by two of the speakers. One speaker was from eBay, the other from Yahoo! Both speakers were involved with managing the huge volumes of e-mail that is generated or goes through their organization’s systems. The difference in attitude was striking. The eBay speaker was concerned and focused on the customer. They considered their customers to be anyone accessing their system who could send or receive an e-mail. All the programs the eBay speaker discussed were focused on providing the best experience for the customer while still maintaining eBay’s interest.

The Yahoo! speaker had a startling different attitude. They started off by pronouncing that they were the largest e-mail system in the world, then followed this up by making fun of businesses that are attempting to market to people who use Yahoo!’s mail system but are blocked out. The Yahoo! representative thought it was ridiculous the extent that these business people went to in order to get access to someone on his team so that they could send e-mail to people using Yahoo! mail. He called his groups lack of accessibility “raw meat”. It appears that business locked out of sending to Yahoo! mail recipients were sending his group Omaha Stakes and other food products in order to be heard above the noise and get a return call from members of his group. I saw these attempts to access someone in his group as a Perkins size red flag that his group is not responsive and that the group has series issues in providing support to businesses. In the past I have worked for or worked with groups that were the large or monopolistic player in a market. I have seen similar arrogant attitudes. The people who work in these groups become drunk on their little bit of power. They enjoy playing business gods by deciding who will get access and who will not get access to their technology. What I have seen in every situation is that this arrogance creates a limited vision. Every monopoly eventually ends. The lack of focus on customers or business relations eventually dooms the group or organization.

This presentation provided me with a very limited but a very telling view into the culture at Yahoo!. Is the lack of customer focus and complete arrogance systemic? Has Yahoo! completely forgotten that they are a service organization? That on the internet it is easy to move to a more responsive service? This group might not be receiving revenue from the business contacts, but this is a very short sighted view. Providing excellent support services to all stakeholders puts an organization in a good position to maintain their customer base and extend services to new and growing markets. Maybe this short sighted, arrogant view is what is dooming Yahoo!

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