WHY COMPANIES “GO BAD”

While our planet is going south, the west is burning down, and COVID-19 is killing tens of thousands of people, a lot of corporations are in a state of self-demolition. WordPress is an obvious example, but by no means the only one. The usual reason is dysfunctional management. I don’t mean bad management. I mean management by those who have never done the work they are supervising but nonetheless feel impelled to micromanage their employees.

LET’S HAVE A MEETING!

I worked for several companies that died of meetings. Half the company worked. The other half were supposed to be the “important thinkers” who would figure out how to make our product popular and thus earn a lot of money. Never mind that the companies inevitably were already making more than enough money. In big money corporations, there’s never enough money.

When a company is new, it’s all about customer-friendliness and great support.  As the money rolls in, generosity to customers equivalently sinks. Phones don’t get answered. They move customer service to Pakistan where underpaid and untrained personnel give you fake answers after disconnecting you multiple times.

Important meeting

I remember when the two best service providers I had were Dell and AT&T. You may not be old enough to remember, but once upon a time, Dell had fantastic service. You called them. Someone who spoke your language answered the phone. If they didn’t know the answer off the top of their head, they knew who to ask. On the other hand, AT&T got famous for not only fixing the problem about which you had called, but fixing every other problem you had. The only thing wrong with the service was that you could be on the line for days at a time.

Then, Dell moved all their customer and technical service to India or Pakistan or who knows where. No matter what your problem was, they always said “Yes, we understand, very sorry for the inconvenience” and promptly give you the wrong part number. AT&T stopped training their service people so they couldn’t help you because they knew nothing about the product. They had scripts. If you weren’t asking a question that was on their script, they were lost. Even if it was on the script, they were still lost.

BAD SERVICE IS A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE

It was a malignancy and spread from corporation to corporation like the flu. I had a medical service and needed a medical oncologist, having already had my surgery. “Oh,” said the service provider, “We don’t have our doctors listed by specialty.”

“Then how do you list them? Alphabetically?”

Because I worked in a very high tech environment for most of my professional life, I got to see these disasters go from concept to creation to bankruptcy, often in as little as a year and a half. Everything would be working fine. Then someone would get a bright idea that it would work so much better if they saved a few dollars and had people in far away countries answer the phones. Or, they would decide what they needed was a new manager. Did they choose a manager who understood the work he or she would be supervising? Not on a bet. You always got to work for some suit who had no idea what you actually did but would set up a new bunch of rules that would make accomplishing your job increasingly difficult until you finally gave up.

Meanwhile, all those smartass promotional people held meetings all day every day and never produced any work — nor did they promote the product.

I firmly believe that people don’t get promoted on the basis of their success, but on their failures. The bigger the failure, the heftier the next promotion will be. For example, a man we knew was fired as Boston’s housing supervisor. He was then hired to run Blue Cross and when that division crashed and burned, he was hired to be the state’s transportation manager. He also built the triplex condos in which we lived in and forgot to install heating and failed to install electricity in at least one bedroom. Just forgot. I’m surprised he isn’t the governor by now, but I think he got old and retired.

BEWILDERMENT

I’m totally bewildered at who WordPress thinks their target audience is. The first thing you do when you are creating software — for for that matter, documenting software — is figuring out with whom you want to connect. But they didn’t do that. I never got a questionnaire asking what I wanted. Nobody got one. So if they know what their target audience is, I’d be curious to know where they got their statistics. To take a reasonably simple format and make it far more complicated is not the usual way to go. Mind you WordPress isn’t the only company who has done this. There was  Corel WordPerfect, StarOffice Writer, Adobe InCopy (it took off, but never flew), and many more including Wang. There were several reasons. Overly complex design, incomprehensible formatting (some companies feel obliged to recreate standard definitions so that you have to relearn everything — including the definition of “paragraph” or “file.” Graphic programs are particularly fond of doing this. And finally, inadequate documentation.

Open source — Free and it works as well or better than anything you can buy!

I used to lobby for standardization of terminology so anyone could easily move from application to application without having to relearn everything. Nope. To this day, I have at least half a dozen graphics programs I can’t use because I don’t understand what they are talking about. They use the same words other programs use, but they don’t mean the same thing.

I frankly don’t have a clue what it is that these companies — including WordPress — are trying to achieve. Even if you manage to figure out how to use their block format — and can work within the very limited boundaries they set — why force you customers to go through this experience? At best, they will be annoyed and at worse, they’ll quit.

THEY DON’T WANT US

I understand that WordPress doesn’t want we “oldies” ruining their “new and youthful” look. For all that, I’m not seeing a big influx of young bloggers or business people. The “new” bloggers set up their blog, write a few pieces, and are gone in a month or two. The internet is full of commercial websites, most of which are a lot easier to use than WordPress and this includes Wix, FourSquare, AWS (Amazon), Google, and oodles of self-hosted setups. By tossing out we older writers, they are making their site a lot less interesting.

Visitors come to read stories and look at photography and art … and may stay to buy something. There is no shortage of commercial space, but there IS a shortage of blogging venues. Why not play to the “soft” area of the market rather than the already overworked and overpriced commercial zone?

My guess — and I’m not alone in this — is that they don’t actually know what they are doing or why. They just feel they should be doing something that will make them look cool, new, and youthful. Personally? I’m guessing they will fail within the next three to four years. They may go bankrupt, or diminish to the point where they get bought out and become a subset of another product.



Categories: Customer Service, Economics, Software, WordPress

Tags: , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. This is so true. Companies start out fresh and responsive, then hubris and lassitude sets in. I am particularly glad to see that you called out WordPress over “improvements” that I, as a long-time WP user, find so off-putting that I’m moving content over to Weebly.

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  2. Have you thought of having an online chat with Pat? She seems to be happy to use the block system… just an idea.

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  3. If WordPress feels that they should be doing “something that will make them look cool, new, and youthful,” forcing us to use a new editor that is close to impossible to use on a smartphone is not the way to go about it. Of course, I’m a septuagenarian, so what do I know about what looks cool, new, and youthful?

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    • I don’t know much about youthful and cool, but I sure do recognize bad software. Young or old, this software locks you into a particular way of doing things that suits maybe half the users and the rest can’t use it without doubling or tripling their work time. It doesn’t matter what age you are. What matters is how it WORKS, which it does — on a very limited basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True, but WordPress is apparently not willing to look back and resurrect its classic editor for those of us who don’t appreciate doubling or tripling the time it takes to publish a post.

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  4. This is an interesting post, Marilyn, and I liked how you discussed bad service and how it has increased. I have also noticed this. I thought that WP was offering for bloggers to continue to use the Classic editor if they wanted to but I may well be mistaken as I didn’t mind moving over to the block editor. For me it is a bit easier, I don’t know why.

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    • We all live in a different head space. For what I do, which is a mix of photography and text, the new format is awful. It doesn’t leave me free to go back and add graphics, or lay down text and add pictures later. Plus, all the stuff that used to be a “single” click is now much more complicated, unless you use almost exclusively text without graphics — OR you have all you graphics prepared in advance. If all you are using is text, it doesn’t make any difference what format you use. Just type and voila, you’re done. For people like me where art and words are combined, it’s a mental killer and squeezes all the creativity out of me. .

      Frankly, I’m not sure I have it in me to start over and they are NOT allowing the classic editor to continue. What was the classic editor is not the original baseline editor. It’s the one they were using 8 years ago when I first started. All the customization I paid for is lost. Most of it was lost anyway since they moved most of it to a more expensive package and took it OUT of my package.

      As I said, if all you are doing is writing (text), it doesn’t matter what format you use. For me, it matters a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny you should mention this, especially the part about people answering the phone, of these companies, off shore. I’ve taken to being rather rude when running into this scenario. I will inform them that “due to your accent, I can’t understand a word you’re saying, and since this is an American company, will you please transfer me to someone who speaks American, or British English? Thank you.”

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      • Ah, I understand, Marilyn. I do use mainly text for my posts with a few pictures as illustrations. I understand the problems better now. Thanks for sharing this.

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  5. I agree with you Marilyn, they are bound to fail if they keep this up.
    Leslie

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  6. It never occurred to me that WordPress would fail, certainly not so soon, but now I have to wonder. When the block editor first came along I assumed the devs wanted to appeal to the mobile phone set, and for that you need some pretty simple and basic to work with the limited real estate. Now, I’m not so sure. The one time I tried to access WordPress via my phone I don’t think I got past the login. Plus most young people seem to use Instagram or Tik Tok or some other cool new social media app. Would love to know the demographic of WP users. -shrug-

    Personally, I think corporations go down the gurgler when the accountants take over. 😦

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    • Yep. The more money they make, the more money they feel obliged to make. I don’t think they even KNOW what demographic they are aiming for.

      Liked by 1 person

      • After reading your posts about the changes, I did a search on my own blog. Meeka’s mind basically only showed up via reblogs. acflory gave much better results but still, I have over 2000 posts and only some of the most recent showed up.
        More worrying, a browser search came up very…sparse. In the past, I never bothered searching for myself because every little thing came up. Now, I feel almost invisible.
        I think you’re right. WordPress may well have shot itself in the foot, with both barrels.

        Like

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