Netflix nails it 09 Oct 2006
34 comments Latest by Jake M.
Netflix nails the customer experience. From site design, to emails, to packaging, to coding, the company is a champion at delivering a great experience.
For one thing, Netflix emails are surprisingly effective. They actually get you to interact. Take this “when was it mailed?” email received from the site:
This is the sort of thing I normally wouldn’t respond to. But Netflix makes it so damn easy. One click and that’s it. No need to figure out anything in the browser window. No middle man. It’s just click and be done. Steve Krug would be proud.
Same thing goes for the company’s emails soliciting reviews. I never review things online. Except at Netflix. And that’s because it’s a no-brainer. An email shows up each time I return a movie. Just one click and it’s rated.
These empowered emails may seem like a small thing but it’s a sign of the way Netflix works.
$1 million prize
Recently, Netflix announced a $1 million prize to anyone who can come up with a new movie recommendation system that is at least 10 percent more accurate than its current one.
Netflix execs say the idea of outsourcing to the masses came up because in-house innovation had slowed down. “If we knew how to do it, we’d have already done it,” said CEO Reed Hastings. “And we’re pretty darn good at this now. We’ve been doing it a long time.”
Even if it is just a stunt — 10% would be a huge bump — it’s a smart move. If someone meets the challenge, then Netflix will reap the benefits. And if the prize goes unclaimed, the mountain of press it’s garnered makes it an effective PR move.
Neftlix has a history of trying innovative techniques. The site was a pioneer at bringing Ajax to the masses (via the site’s movie rating system).
In fact, someone mentioned to me the other day that “it’s actually kind of fun” to go through a batch of movies and zap them with ratings. No wonder the company now has over 345 million movie ratings. The site’s recommendation engine is crucial to the company’s successy so that collection of ratings is an extremely valuable resource. Plus, it gives them a nice leg up over competitors.
Add a movie flow
The flow of adding a movie is also well done. It’s one click to add a movie to your queue and that’s it. Then, if you want to move it to the top you can do that easily too. It’s a simple process that’s impossible to mess up.
The list goes on
The company seems to be constantly working at every aspect of the customer experience. Each time you visit the site, it seems like there’s something new going on there. For example: RSS feeds, rollover movie summaries, or “local favorites”. We’ve posted in the past about the careful attention to detail of the DVD mailer. And Fast Company reports Netflix warehouse workers get free Netflix subscriptions and DVD players in order to understand what customers go through.
One curious exception to Netflix’ customer-centric approach: The throttling of customers who watch lots of movies. This policy seems out of whack with the general attitude of the company.
Netflix most likely punishes them by 1) slowing down their rental shipments, 2) reporting returned rentals as received days later than they actually were, and 3) giving them lowest priority for movies in high demand.
This may save money upfront, but giving your most loyal customers inferior service seems like a dubious long-term move.
Now Apple and Amazon are entering the movie market and, according to some, that makes Netflix “an obvious loser.” Sounds familiar — remember when Blockbuster and Walmart were going to take down Netflix? Check out Walmart’s DVD rental site these days.