Why waste such a valuable space?

I hate complaining.

Wait, that’s a lie; in fact I actually like complaining. I like looking at a problem or some sort of sub-optimal condition and say, if you just changed that bit, if you just dropped that thingummy, it would be so much easier for the people who come into contact with it. I make a living from telling people what is’t optimal in their product, service, website and then offer suggestions based on research, information from users, and solutions other people have come up with. I’m a bit like an iron, smoothing out the wrinkles of experience. *groan*

So, you might say, complaining is my job. Yes, I like complaining. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with Apple yesterday whinging about how even though it let me type spaces in my password, didn’t flag it was an issue in the error checking, and accepted my entry; it still failed my login attempts because my pass had spaces which they didn’t record. I’ve never met a coder who hadn’t read the XKCD Password Strength comic so there’s no excuse for not testing predictable use cases. Really.

But this post isn’t about Apple, it’s about a different music service.

Yes, I like complaining; I just hate having to complain about tiny issues that shouldn’t happen. You can therefore understand my frustration when I see a company who are otherwise

  • quite receptive to user feedback
  • seem to have empathy for their customers
  • have thought through their consumer offering so deeply

not see the value in what is the smallest piece of copywriting available to a company. So much value, for so many letters. I do have to shudder a bit. I can’t believe I’m the first one to see this as a problem, but a problem that can cost the company in reputation and wasted effort.

Even a credit card statement has copywriting

Whenever you use your credit card for a purchase, the bank records it with a short string of text to appear in your statement. Most often it has the company name in it, it might have a country code and it often has some sort of location info. Everyone knows the purpose is to help you remember what you paid for and track a payment to that company in your records. If you have a dispute, you can find it. If you’ve been overcharged, you can see it. If you need to prove proof of purchase, it is very helpful.

Portion of a bank statement listing 14 credit-card purchases

Click to zoom my statement

I have to confess, I am often slack in checking through my statements, but have learned it is useful to do so a few months after an overseas trip to see if anyone skimmed my card while I was away. While doing so I discovered this unusual entry, highlighted in this image at left (click it for a larger version). Scrolling down the list I bet you have no trouble discerning where most of the payments might come from, except for one. Most have information that, even if you’ve never been to Sydney, would be enough to understand where that purchase was made. A few are very local, but an internet search for that name would give you a pretty clear indication where you spent your money. Easy.

Except for one, “Premium X 1 541 Premium Au“. Sounds innocuous does it? Hmmm; no, not very. I then looked back to see that it had been happening for months and I really had no idea where it came from and naturally suspected fraud. The letter “X” really had me worried I’d been unwittingly subscribed to some nasty site doing shady or illegal stuff. I immediately rolled out the fraud function on the banking site and ticked all the ones I could find with this name, reported it as fraud and received a nice letter from the bank telling me I was credited each disputed transaction. 

Job done.                  I thought.

But it then appeared again this month. So the fraud report hadn’t shut it off, just refunded my query. I guess it would have cost more to investigate than to simply refund and move onto bigger fish. OK. So I went into procrastinate, ahem, research mode and fired up both Google and DuckDuckGo (yeah, I know, don’t get me started…) to get to the bottom of Premium X.

After some research I discovered there were others who experienced this same issue. I had to use only a portion of the entry to find them, and I can’t guarantee the result will be in your results list because of the way Google “helps” you find relevant results through filter bubbling and tracking  but there they were. In among the area code searches, and beer keg products and pregnancy services (??) there was the one lone entry.

little details have HUGE value

Spotify Community. Then the bells went off and a quick search showed there was no “Spotify” entry in my statement. The search result pointed to a list in the help section of the accounts section of the discussion forum of the  Spotify community listing describing how the charges appear on your credit card.  Obviously the first thing I read when subscribing to a music service. *sarcasm*.

Spotify thought “Premium x 1 541 Premium Au” was sufficient to tell me I was paying for my  subscription to Spotify. They missed the opportunity that I could say “Ah, yeah, Spotify! I love Spotify” when I’m looking at my credit card statements. “What great value!” I could think to myself. “I got ten times that value this week alone!”, I could warmly gush. Instead: “What the?? oh, right. No, that’s Spotify; I think. Better check. Shame it sounds dodgy.” is what I get to think. or what I did last week, which was: “F#@*! My card got skimmed somewhere and now I’m in deep with a dodgy service it’ll take ages to rectify!“. Not a desirable impression and a bad outcome for some very easy copywriting. A little attention to detail. A touch of though on the brand value.

Instead of making the credit card entry something like “Spotify Premium 1 541 AU”, which everyone who subscribed to Spotify would clearly understand, they chose to:

  • create an entry that sounds like a pr0n site or a chat line service
  • add a line deep in the site explaining what the entry would look like when you see it a month or two later
  • field questions in the support forum explaining the difference
  • assume people want to search the Spotify site to find what it’s called in their credit card statement
  • assume people would seek the answer from Spotify and not their bank or search engines
  • manage several (hundreds?) fraud cases a month as people panic when they see “Premium X 1 541 Premium” on their credit card statements.

At some point, someone had to make all those choices. Someone had to say, “Lets explain the credit card entry” instead of “Let’s remove the need for supporting that stupid name and change it to something meaningful, and reduce overheads”. It is a clear example of how a small item, a label on a statement, can have an adverse and negative impact on a service or brand. As previously mentioned, it’s the little things that matter. It’s not the epic fails that infuriate, often it’s the little issues, that compound to form an overall impression. As Bukowski wrote: “it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse“.

When offering a service, make sure your little things are something worthy of praise on Little Big Details, rather than of a small tragedy, diminishing your value in your customer/visitor/client’s eyes. Your customers will respect and appreciate your attention to their details.


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