Why I Don’t Love Your Company Or Your Products.

I just returned home from Walt Disney World. Let me just state up front that I love Walt Disney World. I may not necessarily like all the moving parts of the greater Disney corporation, but from a vacation perspective, there is no finer place to take one’s family.

Was it expensive? Of course. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Let me tell you why.

Take a look at this picture:

Yep. That’s my little girl getting an autograph from the white rabbit and a hug from Alice. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, they are two of the more notable characters from “Alice in Wonderland”. Notice the expression on “Alice’s” face. Eyes closed. Warm smile. Arms embracing a little girl she’s never even met. I should also point out that when she was speaking to my little girl, she never broke character. In fact, over 6 days in various Disney parks, none of the people playing various princesses and other roles EVER broke character. Believe me. I stood in plenty of lines. Endured several costly meals. Took plenty of pictures. I’d remember if one of them slipped up. 🙂 Ask yourself this. Is that a quality Disney employee in that picture? Could I pay a lot less at some other amusement park and get the same experience? Possibly, but more likely the answer is no.

Between the 11 of us that were there together, I have over 2000 pictures and videos culled from multiple smart phones and several hand-held cameras. That’s from 6 days in Disney parks. Of all those photos, this one struck me as the most representative of the Disney experience.

I could go on and on and bore you to death with story after story about the Disney employees and the quality experience they provide. I think you get my point though, so I will stop with the sole example shown above.

The first day we walked into the Magic Kingdom, I told my 8yr old son: “You are about to see what true customer service looks like. Don’t expect to see this many other places in the world.” What I didn’t tell him was how much money it took to experience that kind of customer service. 🙂

There are brands out there similar to Disney and not very many of them are inexpensive. Do any come to mind?

Here are some brands that I have used and I prefer from a quality product/experience(Feel free to disagree, but remember that sometimes the experience plays a large role in addition to the product.):

Barnes and Noble
Mellow Mushroom Pizza
SouthWest Airlines
Craftsman Tools
LL Bean

There’s a reason I like each of the brands mentioned above. There are also reasons I don’t particularly care for their competitors or just happen to be indifferent towards them. I have no problems spending money on any company’s products listed above. That doesn’t mean I like all of their products. You just won’t have to twist my arm as much as you would for a competitor’s product.

Finally. Something Technical…..Sort Of.

Here’s the part you care about….I hope. Think about IT companies out there. Any particular brands you love? I bet there are far more that you don’t love. Why don’t you love them? Why don’t you care about all the advertisements, marketing e-mails, webcast invites, etc?

For me, it is because those companies or products don’t give me a reason to care about them. There is no differentiation from everyone else. There is nothing special about them. Their marketing stinks. Their ability to execute stinks. All they can do is jump up and down like a spoiled little child demanding that you notice them, but when you do take time to notice them, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about them. Not a thing.

Whenever I get a chance to talk to a vendor, I always like to mention a competitor or two of theirs and then ask what makes them different. In my personal experience, the good companies will tell you straight up what makes them different. The bad ones will typically respond with: “You can’t really compare us to company XYZ because of blah, blah, blah.” They then proceed to trash their competition without ever really answering why they are different.

Maybe it just comes down to hiring good people. People that are “evangelistic” in their love of the company product will yield far greater results than people just trying to sell one more widget to make a quota. Can’t find any people like that?

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Pay your people more. – This means you charge more for your product. I get that. Build quality and people will pay more. Problem solved. Profit margins will still be intact.
  2. Develop your people. – I realize that goes against the modern corporate mantra, but if you actually treat people like humans instead of a number, they might surprise you. There are people who will actually go the extra mile for you if they know you are investing in them and their long-term career prospects. I’m not really referring to the executive that you send to MBA school or wherever else they go to learn the latest ways to inflate the stock price. I’m talking about the people that work underneath those executives. The ones that have to park their cars far away from the building.
  3. Hire weirdos. – Normal people should only be found in the accounting department. Every other department should be full of weirdos. Not social deviants. Weirdos. There’s a difference. If your employees WANT to come to work each day just to observe the freak show, you are doing it right. Bonus points if they don’t figure out that they ARE the freak show.

Keep in mind that number 3 only applies to IT companies. Weirdos don’t fare well in sectors like banking, healthcare, and transportation.

Closing Thoughts

Somewhere in this disjointed post I had a point. I believe it was simply that I don’t love a lot of IT companies or their products because they just don’t give me a reason to. I’d love to hear your reasons for why you do love certain products or vendors.

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19 Responses to Why I Don’t Love Your Company Or Your Products.

  1. Omar Sultan says:

    Hey dude!

    I like you list of companies–not sure I can find fault with any of them (maybe Chik-Fil-A). Might I also humbly suggest Amazon, Columbia, Zappos and In-and-Out largely for the same criteria you used.


  2. Keith says:

    Would be nice to see you add a list of the people for whom you have disdain from a service point of view.

    As one of their customers for 13 years, I would now put Vodafone (UK) at the top of a list of utter crappers for poor and even dishonest service.

    • Keith,

      That list would be far too long. For starters, just add every single service provider, be it cellular, land line circuits, or cable. They are all horrible. I will say that Verizon Wireless here in the US has very well trained employees working in their stores and call centers. The problem is the quality stops there.

  3. Philip says:

    Great post. I could not agree more. We just did the Disney trip around Thanksgiving and you are right, the Disney org completely gets customer service. You also mentioned USAA and I couldn’t agree more with that one! In my many years of working with USAA, I cannot recall a single instance of bad customer service. That’s not to say I got everything I wanted from USAA. They have had to deliver bad news like I cannot write that policy or do that for you, but its always done in the most courteous and customer serving way possible. Same with Southwest. I drive 3 hours to fly them versus my local airport and airline 15 minutes away. And, of course, Apple. Each one of these customers are focused on (passionate about) making great products and experiences for customers — not profit. There is much more to business than the bottom line and profit margins.

    • Philip says:

      Next to last line should say not * JUST * profit. Obviously, any business needs to have profit to survive…

      • Philip,

        I knew what you meant. 😉

        The interesting thing is that if you focus on quality, the profit will be there. People will willingly give you their money no matter how much you charge if you go the extra mile to ensure the “user experience” is better than everyone else.

  4. Devin Akin says:


    I just LOVE this blog.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog. LOVE it. Did I say LOVE? I meant LOVE!

    You should repost it again next week as next week’s blog like it wasn’t this week’s blog…and maybe again the week after that too.

    You touched a place inside of me with this blog that all-too-often feels…dead. If I weren’t half way around the world right now, I ‘d hunt you down and give you a slightly more manly version of the hug that your daughter got from Alice.


    • Thanks buddy! I do it all for you Devin. All for you. 🙂

      I am sitting in an Aerohive class right now, so I could possibly get the instructors to hug me. However, that might be a little awkward.

  5. Ethan Banks says:

    My boss just described me as “having idiosyncrasies.” Does that mean…oh noes! I might be a part of the freak show!!

  6. Well written Matthew. You highlight some very important things both directly and indirectly. While it is somewhat difficult to compare B2C (Consumer) and B2B (Business) brands because of how they are sold, there are some important lessons that B2B (read: technology companies you typically write about) companies could do with minimal change to their operating model.

    1 – Allow customers to “experience” the products/services prior to buying, and on their terms. Some tech companies offer “virtual appliances” (good), or “virtual demo labs” (good), but don’t always offer these in an open manner (require hand-holding by an SE, or only support fixed scenarios).

    2 – Allow “mass-customization” or “hackerization” of products/services. The prior is difficult for a commercial product because it leads to classic feature-creep, but maybe more products need an open-source “community” version and a traditional “supported” version to satisfy both the hackers/curious-techies and those that are focused on stability. Typically very cool things come out of allowing people to get creative with your product, especially in the early stages of technology transitions.

    3 – Engage with the target audience. This seems to confuse technology companies because they think their audience is “the CIO or IT executive”, but then they tell them about speeds/feeds. So not only do they not have a business conversation or technology conversation when it’s the appropriate audience (they speak to the mythical “mixed audience”), but they speak at them. This is where Social Media can help, and people like John Troyer (@jtroyer) do a great job creating and engaging in community building, but it needs to align to how the vendor engages with their customers day-to-day. Too may companies don’t connect those dots well.

    4 – Say “thank you” or “my pleasure”. Maybe this is a Southern thing, but think about the last engagement you have every time to speak to anyone at Chick-fil-A (no matter the situation). Not only are they polite (typically teenagers!!), but they appreciate you making the choice to select their business from the dozens of other choices you have. As an industry, we need to remember to thank our customers on the days when we’re not engaged with them at a tradeshow or executive-briefing event. It’s a small gesture, but it conveys a lot about how the vendor approaches the relationship with that customer.

    It’s not a perfect list, but it might be a few small steps that IT vendors could easily do to convince someone like yourself to add them into the list of companies that you enjoy doing business with.

    • Lisa Caywood says:

      Great points, Brian. I especially like your second thought, though it would require more than a “minimal” change to the operating model, in that it would create a separate product/feature stream and ecosystem that would need to be supported/maintained/advanced.

  7. Adrienne Mead says:

    Strongly agree. Customer experience is very key. If you get the product right, and the product delivery mechanism right – and the customer experience is reliable – you absolutely CAN get away with charging more.

    This applies *even* in very competitive industries. This is very true *even* in the telecom/IT sector. If you don’t *separate* your product/service from the pack by providing superior Customer experience (or at least some superior aspect of customer experience) then you can still always be undercut (maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, soon, and for the rest of your life) on price alone.

    Big thumbs up on the post.

  8. Josh Atwell says:

    Fantastic post and I’m right there with you with those brands.

    Customer Experience
    When shopping for something I don’t see locally I will always go to Amazon FIRST.
    When my wife and I travel we usually stop at Cracker Barrel or Chic-fil-A because we KNOW what kind of experience we will have there every time.

    If I need to hang something on the wall, the 3M Command Strips happen.
    Storage = Rubbermaid
    Apple, yea the price is higher and capabilities are sometimes limited but it just works. If there is an issue the people at the Apple store are knowledgeable and happy to be there. I have never had one of them try to sell me anything.

    Brian touches on some great points and I think that strong B2B experiences yield similar experiences for folks that they take with them to other organizations that may not currently use that company’s products.

  9. Lauren Buchsbaum says:

    Spot on. I’m working on a research piece right now, an e-book targeted at technology marketers with ideas for how they can market their company and products more effectively. Most of the feedback I’ve been getting from technical audiences has been to the effect of “know your customers, stay away from meaningless hype, include specific examples of how this technology can be used, etc,” and I really like the human emphasis you’ve spun on this. Marketers, and the brands they represent, can and should have personality… because that’s what differentiates them, short of their products.

  10. Justin Watermann says:

    Pretty good points and list of favored companies. We were at Disney this week too, yeah they are top notch in making the experience value added so that you feel whatever the cost was it was worthwhile.

  11. CJ Infantino says:

    Great post.

    I think it boils down the, you pay for what you get. Often people complain about the prices of quality products and believe the cheaper will suffice. I have come to the conclusion that, it is rarely, if ever worth it to buy the cheaper product/experience.

    I honestly don’t think things have gotten more expensive, I just believe we have found ways to make things cheaper at the cost of quality in the product and labor. Our perception of how much things cost is skewed and needs to be re-adjusted.

    Take food for example, so many people complain about the cost of Organic food, and that is because companies have found ways to cheapen our food. Whether it is from harmful farming practices, or manufacturing food in a lab. But the reality is, Organic food is the true cost of food, real food that is.

    Bottom-line, we have been fouled into thinking that there exist a widget that cost next to nothing to purchase and will deliver flawlessly for years to come. It just isn’t true. The TV I buy today will not last 20 years like the TV’s of old. We are a disposable society and the few companies that care about quality get a bad reputation for being “expense” or “elitist”.

    Not so. If I spend my hard earned money, I would rather wait another x amount of time to have to save for something that is higher quality then get the instant satisfaction of having the cheaper thing now.


  12. Tom S. says:

    Great article! I especially love the piece about “weirdos”. LOL

    Your list is spot-on. I would definitely add Cisco and Amazon to the list, however. Cisco makes quality products and does charge a premium for them but it’s well worth the quality and support you receive in my opinion.

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