Developing a Culture of Excellence

This morning, shortly after I arrived at my office and started processing my emails, a new one popped up on my screen:

    I doubt I’ll hear back from you. It’s not clear on your site who to direct such comments to but at least I’ll try.

    I like your columns fine, and I signed up for a lot of them. But I virtually never, ever open them because they are in HTML. Why can’t I have the option of getting them in plain text? I just delete them rather than wait for them.

    If they were in plain text I’d open them, and it would be highly likely I’d click through to your site from them, too.

    But I don’t.

    Like I said, I don’t expect to hear back from you, but I’m so frustrated by the HTML that I thought I’d feel better by voicing my complaint even if I know it won’t get heard. Ah well. Such is the Internet.

    Betsy (last name deleted)

    P.S. Oh this is interesting. I just sent this to who was the person I clicked on your site to send this to and got an error message saying I’m not allowed to send an email to So why is that email address on your “contact us” section??? I’ll try the publisher. I really don’t have time this morning to play games with your site like this. I hope you realize that I’m a customer who really cares. I’m also a marketing consultant to some pretty large, influential sites. But I really don’t think I’ll hear back from you guys. Oh well. Like I said, at least I’ll feel better…

I get emails like this every so often. People who are upset about one of the many imperfections of ClickZ, need to let us know about it but are convinced that no human being will ever read or respond to it. Why? Because at most web sites, when you write in and complain about something, you never hear back.

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that you also receive email like this from time to time.

So how do you handle it?

I will tell you what I did. It may or may not work for you.

I immediately responded to Betsy as follows:

    Hi Betsy,

    Believe it or not, Ann and I read and respond to darn near every email that comes in that is directed to us.

    We had a tough challenge when we launched the individual columns as subscribable newsletters. We could do HTML right away or wait till our system could handle text as well and then offer the new option. We chose to make it available immediately in HTML, later in text. And we DO fully intend on making it subscribable in text, so not to worry.

    Thanks for taking us to task on this. You are absolutely right.

    Take care,


As I look at this response now, I realize I did not address some of her other key concerns, those being that she had difficulty discerning exactly whom she should address her email to. Well, just for the record, if you write about any site or email performance issue, it will be seen by all the people who matter, including myself.

Usually our creative director, Daniel Shiplacoff, who is obsessed with developing ClickZ into the perfect site, will hop on the issue and respond directly. People love him!

In this case, I copied Daniel and the rest of the design group and have NO doubt that they will take Betsy’s admonitions to heart and make immediate changes.

More than once, I’ve seen significant template changes made on the basis of a single reader’s feedback. Sometimes in as quickly as one day.

So what are we trying to do here?

We strive to respond as quickly as possible, acknowledging the importance of the issue raised and letting our readers know that we care.

We strive to determine as quickly as possible if this is something we really do need to address, and, if not, why not, then to get back to the readers and let them know what is behind our decision one way or the other.

Most important, we have developed a culture here where we strive for excellence, to be the best, to keep the readers and sponsors happy.

We can’t possibly succeed on all counts, but making the effort makes us a lot better than we would be otherwise. People appreciate it.

So what does Betsy think about all this? I just got her email response as I was writing this column. The response was titled “OK, I’m impressed!”:

    OK, I’m shocked, totally shocked. You got me! I’ll even wade through that damn HTML now. I’m very impressed. And I also understand. Thanks so much for getting back to me like this. So, how come I can’t email you from your site? Since I deal with this stuff with my clients all the time, I know the worst thing is to have your site not working right but no one tells you. They just leave.

    But your quick, personal response overshadows all hassles. Thanks. Made my day. I’ll be spreading the word. Good luck on getting things to plain text.


So Betsy, we’re going to make it a lot easier for folks like you to email us in the future. I’m sure Daniel and the design team are addressing it as we speak.

Thanks for the feedback!

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