First issue delivery – why publishers get it wrong

Prompted by Jim Bilton’s latest ‘subscriber service survey’ in the Wessenden Briefing I’ve been thinking a bit about customer service and just how badly subscribers are treated by publishers.

In my old copywriting days it used to be quite amusing to write “Yes please rush me my magazine! (please allow up to six weeks)”, but if I were a consumer, the joke would be stating to pall by now.

The Wessenden survey shows that customers’ expectations of customer service are rising and that a lot of this is being driven by the standard of service given by online operators.

Amazon would not be where it is today if its delivery times were the same as magazine publishers. And the fact is that the speed of first issue delivery has one of the biggest impacts on renewal intentions. Your delay in getting out the subscriber’s first copy is having a negative effect on your renewal rates.

But, says the industry, subscriptions have lead times and magazines have print deadlines; we’re not sending out one product, but starting a service; it’s “impractical” to make special cases.

Obviously true to an extent, but I’d contend that these are excuses rather than genuine reasons for the delay. What’s really happening is that publishers are trying to save money – they don’t want to overprint a few copies to cope with new subs coming in; they don’t want to mail out copies to new subs if they can’t get them in the bulk mail rates; they don’t want the hassle of supplying digital editions in the interim.

This penny saving at the start of the sub is costing pounds in renewals. Just think, you’ve just got a new subscriber, someone who loves your magazine so much that they are prepared to pay up front for the product,  and what do you do? You piss them off by making them wait 4-6 weeks to get their first magazine.

Stop thinking like a publisher, and start thinking like a customer: what would your opinion be of a company that made you wait six weeks to get the product you ordered? It’s not positive is it?



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