The Real Poop on Customer Service
As a three-cat household, we're very fussy about the kind of kitty litter we use. Most are either too chemical-y or too perfumed, or they simply don't perform well.
And our cats are equally as fussy and react badly to brands that are too gritty. They sniff, burrow, circle, run away, then circle back and fling it out of the box whenever we try one that doesn't suit them. One of the cats, who shall remain nameless, expresses her dislike by simply refusing to use it — and you can imagine how that scenario plays out. (Trust me, I would rather she fling clumps of the litter at the wall like her cohorts do.)
So there is great joy in Litterville when we find a brand that seems to suit everyone. So far, in the eight years of cat ownership, there's been just one that meets all the criteria: It absorbs odor, is not perfumed, is all-natural and even flushable, it's scoopable, and it's fine enough not to irritate delicate paw pads. It has the added benefit of being incredibly lightweight, so no one risks a hernia carrying it from the car to the house. It's also crazy expensive, but well worth it.
Imagine my displeasure, then, when during a recent shopping trip, all of the boxes of our favorite brand looked a little ... different. What was it? Oh, yeah, a big yellow sticker with those dreaded words: New & Improved! With visions of the Facebook timeline "improvement" in my head, I reached for one of the new boxes, and my worst kitty-litter fears were realized. The "new and improved" litter is heavier than the original. I jerked the box from the shelf and nearly crashed into a display of dog food when the weight of the litter pulled my arm toward the ground.
But, clinging desperately to the notion of brand loyalty and hoping against hope that the weight of the stuff was the only non-improvement improvement, I brought the litter home. Almost needless to say, it was totally different. Still eco-friendly and non-perfumed, but it had — horrors — little stick-like bits that our cats simply will not tolerate. When the they finally realized that no amount of burrowing, flinging and circling was going to make me toss an entire box of $12 cat litter and they deigned to do their business in it — well, it didn't work nearly as well as its old and unimproved predecessor.
I called the store and was told that yes, indeed, my favorite litter had been improved and that the old version was no longer available. So I called the company that makes the litter and was put on permanent hold. I went online to the company website — yes, kitty litter is that big a deal in my home — to get the scoop, if you will, on this new iteration. No explanation for the change, just lots of starbursts and exclamation points touting the new product nestled amid photos of cat lovers and their pets, and verbiage about us all being valued members of the XXX brand family.
And, going a little further than I would normally care to admit, I clicked on the Contact Us link to lodge a complaint. My first peeve was that the link opened to a form that I had to fill out with my name, address, phone number, e-mail and comment — but that didn't provide an e-mail address. Hit Send, and your comment just goes off into cyberspace. For some reason, the lone "Your Comment Has Been Sent" message never makes me feel even moderately confident that it has. I always feel better about a comment link that opens to a page listing a real e-mail address that includes the company name and, better yet, a person's name — email@example.com, for example.
My comment contained a nicely worded complaint about the new product, as well as a specific question about the availability of the old one. I'm not the least bit surprised that three weeks have passed and I've not heard back. Annoyed, yes. But not surprised. (Compare that to my social-media experience with Pepperidge Farms.)
I was surprised, however, to have received two e-mails from the company offering me savings on the new product, with no acknowledgement whatsoever of my dissatisfaction. Clearly, the website's comment function is nothing more than a vehicle for gathering e-mail addresses and upselling.
In protest I've moved on to one of the few other eco-friendly brands that is nowhere near as effective as the old version of this product and about on par, performance-wise, as the new version — minus the stick-like bits.
I have three cats, so unless I want to invest in the kitty toilet-training kit I saw in SkyMall (and I haven't ruled that out completely), I have to buy kitty litter. But your donors don't have to donate to you or anyone else. And if they do decide to give, there are lot of other "anyone else's" out there that they can give to if their experience with your organization or its website ticks them off, makes them feel insignificant or doesn't produce the experience or results they want.
It's easy to forget that customers and donors have choices. So don't.