I just got this a few minutes ago. Great Newsletter!


DEMAND FOR VISOR EXCEEDS HANDSPRING'S PREPARATION

Starting up a business must be a difficult thing to do.
I, for one, would not even know where to begin. There's
so much to think about, such as product and marketing
and shipping and customer service and pricing and
partners and warranties. I am continually amazed by
start-ups that get it right on the first try, providing
stellar customer service and covering all of their
bases.

Some are not so lucky. Handspring is experiencing what
I call "success-based failure" right now in several of
its critical business initiatives. By that, I mean that
Handspring's first product, the inexpensive Visor
handheld device, is so popular that the company has
been completely overwhelmed by orders and ill-prepared
to handle them.

The stories coming from potential Visor customers are
nightmarish, and worse than the average
"I'm-gonna-kill-those-customer-service-reps" variety. I
tell at least one of those tales a week. But we're
talking about hold times of more than two hours,
indefinite shipping delays, and instances of customers
receiving the wrong color or the wrong number of units.
And nobody seems to know the answers to end-users'
question when and if they do get through. For more on
this, visit http://www.visorcentral.com and browse the
discussion boards. It's a lesson in mob mentality.

Some companies address problems such as this by saying
things like, "These are problems we like to have. We
underestimated demand." (Remember when America Online
changed its billing model to unlimited use, and its
modems couldn't handle the increased business?)

But that's really unacceptable and should be insulting
to anyone considering patronizing that company. This is
not like having two ace pitchers on staff and not
knowing which to start in the first game of the World
Series. This is not like choosing between the Aruba
vacation package and the mobile home/jet ski package on
The Price Is Right.

This is big business, and it's my money and loyalty they
are talking about.

To Handspring's credit, the company has not taken this
selfish approach in addressing its difficulties. Company
officials realize that there is no excuse for
underestimating anything, particularly when you are
dealing with a group as ravenous and fanatic as this
post-Palm Pilot contingency.

Personally, I don't think that even if demand had been
exactly what company officials were anticipating, they
would have handled it well. Given the types of
complaints they've received, some of it can be chalked
up to good old incompetence. But I guess we'll never
know.

The company will not deny its shortcomings. Visitors to
the Handspring Web site are greeted with an effusive
apology from company co-founder Donna Dubinsky, who
explains how the current customer-service crisis came
to be, and what is being done to resolve it.

I doubt the problems will significantly dent the
company's overall sales in the long run, seeing as there
seems to be nothing to dissuade this voracious customer
segment from parting with their money. The company is
addressing the problems by hiring more staff and
tackling one problem at a time to try to pick up the
pieces.

But there is a lesson to be learned, and customers have
a right to be disappointed. Handspring knew its audience
and fully intended to generate this type of response.
Meeting demand should be as important as generating it.
Anything less is a slap in the consumers' collective
face.

I can be tough on any vendor that is taking my
hard-earned money. I expect a lot, and I often take it
personally when my expectations are not met.

What are your expectations and what is your recourse
when they aren't met?
________________________________________________________

Dan Briody is an editor-at-large at InfoWorld
and can be reached at dan_briody@infoworld.com.


Couldn't have said it better myself Dan!

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BC