For the past couple of days, it seems everyone involved with epublishing has been talking about Microsoft, and their purchase of $300 worth of stock in B&N’s new Nook spin-off company. It will undoubtedly provide Nook with some much-needed leverage to compete against Amazon and Apple, and hopefully provide them with some real competition.
But what does it mean for us readers? All we can do is speculate, but right now, my guess is…
And it mostly comes down to one area which for me & B&N, has been a big, fat, FAIL: customer service.
First, let’s be clear on one thing – I’m talking online, not the stores. The people I’ve dealt with in the stores have been great – super-supportive of us Nook authors, listening to us, trying to find ways to encourage customers to buy our books in the stores. But I do most of my shopping online, and that’s where the breakdown occurred.
You see, last fall, someone tried to buy a bunch of stuff at HHGregg with my Discover card number. Discover Card knew it wasn’t me, denied the charge, and called me. I confirmed that it wasn’t me, and the Discover Card rep said I’d get a new card in the mail in a few days. (Barnes & Noble.com, are you listening? You can learn something from the folks at Discover Card.)
So, no problems there.
Until I went to buy some ebooks and my default credit card – yup, Discover – was denied, because I’d forgotten to update it.
Amazon sent me a polite email informing me that the charge had been denied, and suggesting that I update my payment method, and re-place the order. Which I did.
When I tried to order from Barnes & Noble, they emailed me too – informing me that my credit card was denied, my account was locked and I’d have to call customer service to get it unlocked.
OK, I get that they don’t want to take a bad credit card, no problem there. But really? LOCK my account??? And they expect me to CALL to get it unlocked, just so I can switch out my credit card and SPEND MONEY??? Just do a quick search on that one to see what B&N’s customer service is like – stories of hour+ hold times abound.
I admit I didn’t even try to call. Did I mention I’m not fond of talking on the phone? And if I wanted to, you know, talk to someone, I might have just, oh I don’t know, gone to a STORE? And the big question: Why bother calling at all when a couple clicks will take me to AMAZON?
So that’s my story. How about one of my friends’? She started out with a Nook reader, and loved it – for about three months. Then it stopped holding a charge. Could she take it back to the store? NO! Granted, this was probably because she’d bought it at Best Buy, not B&N, but still… so she shipped it back. And waited for a replacement. And waited. And waited. Finally, her new, refurbished Nook came a month later.
Which she again loved. Until it, too, stopped holding a battery charge.
To make a long story short, she ended up going through this twice more. When she was on her fourth Nook, she finally said screw it and bought a Kindle 3, which she’s been enjoying without problems for over a year.
So do I think that the Microsoft infusion will cure these ills? I’d love it if they did, because really, competitions is good for everyone (well, at least for the consumers). If B&N stepped up their game, it would keep Amazon better as well, and the readers would continue to have choices, something I’m definitely in favor of. Of course, I’d be even more in favor of a universal ebook format (like that’s going to happen anytime soon). But failing that, choices are good. But my skepticism meter’s pegged out. I’ve used Windows computers since 1997. Customer service? If I have problems with Windows, I go look it up on a web forum. So hopefully if nothing else, the Microsoft partnership will spawn a bunch of those, where we can get self-serve support.
Because I really like that Nook Touch with Glow Light (with expandable memory!). But until the support situation improves, I’ll keep reading Kindle books on my Android phone. 😀
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you! Do you think Microsoft’s buy-in to the Nook will make things better for the customer? Do you have any other crystal ball revelations? Please share!