Consumers are enraged at Netflix’ steep price increases with good reason — a 60% increase is hard to take during a prolonged recession. As a result well over 1 million have already cancelled their subscription.
From the consumer’s POV, Netflix’ latest plans to split the offering into two unrelated services, Netflix and Qwikster, are utterly ridiculous. Infuriating. And perhaps fatal to the company’s longevity.
Netflix has given its customers the reason — and the motivation — to look elsewhere for a better value.
A Broken Brand Promise
The heavy-handed moves by the company are causing me to rethink how much, if any, I want of Netflix’ service in the future. Like millions of other Netflix subscribers who have become disenchanted with the brand.
One of the reasons for the furor that’s fueling the consumer backlash is Netflix’ broken brand promise. We used to believe Netflix stood as a shining example of a consumer-centered modern corporation.
Now we realize it was just a big myth that we collectively bought into. Myself included.
Netflix has squandered our trust and lost our loyalty. They’ve polluted their brand. Can they overcome this damage?
Setting Up for Streaming Is Not Easy
Netflix is clearly staking its future on mainstream adoption of streaming and digital downloads as the preferred way to “consume” movies, music, TV episodes, games, etc.
But there’s a lurking problem that no one has acknowledged in the furor that’s raging across the blogosphere. And that’s user experience.
If you plan to stream movies to a PC, Mac or an Apple-branded consumer device (like Apple TV or iPad), configuring Netflix and entering your credentials are not too difficult. It’s easy if you’re using a device that’s equipped with a keyboard.
But heaven help you if you’re using a traditional consumer electronics device and must enter user credentials with a remote control device. (You might want to consult a teenage geek who’s comfortable with remotes as an input device.)
To make things worse, just because you’ve gotten it working once doesn’t mean your Netflix configuration will keep working indefinitely. Software updates by Netflix and/or your consumer electronics device manufacturer can cause the configuration to stop working. So you confront the user experience issues all over again.
Netflix doesn’t exert much influence over the consumer electronics ecosystem, so the user experience problems are systemic and likely to persist…
The Remote Was Not Designed as a Keyboard Substitute
Over the past several months I’ve wasted hours trying to keep Netflix streaming to our flat-screen TV, using Sony PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation network as the interface to Netflix. My first attempt to configure streaming took several hours (including several sessions on my Mac to get online help).
After the initial setup it worked just fine — until Sony’s PlayStation network was hacked and everything had to be reset. Since then I’ve had to reset the configuration more than once. I’m not sure if this is caused by Sony’s frequent software updates or some conflict between the PlayStation network and Netflix.
Needless to say, if your interface to a consumer electronics device is a TV remote, having to enter multiple sets of user IDs and passwords is a non-trivial and frustrating exercise. The fact that whatever you type when entering your password is masked with asterisks — ******** — increases your chances of wasting your time due to typos that occur when you use a remote as an inferior keyboard substitute.
My Netflix Solution on the PS3
To fix the broken Netflix configuration required consulting both Netflix’ and Sony’s support resources online. Not surprisingly they weren’t coordinated. Netflix’ site turned out to be distinctly unhelpful, and Sony’s site required some real digging to find the solution.
Not to mention waiting until server maintenance was done (during prime time, I might add).
The eventual solution was:
- manually reset the date and time on the PS3
- uninstall the Netflix app on the PS3
- download and reinstall the Netflix app
- re-enter my user ID and password for Netflix (using the remote, of course).
Oh — and I forgot to mention that Sony required me to reset my password to the PlayStation network before beginning this whole procedure — yet another frustrating battle with the remote as keyboard substitute.
This may sound simple, but using the remote as an input device for activities designed for a keyboard meant that these steps took well over an hour — once I understood what was required to fix the problem in first place. Finding the solution required use of a computer.
Net net –
Given the on-going lack of coordination between Netflix and consumer electronics companies when it comes to user experience, usability issues like these will prove to be Netflix’ Achilles heel if their future depends on happy customers.
Thankfully, Netflix has listened to their customers and responded. Plans for Qwikster have been abandoned — the service will not be split in two.