A Tiny Failure to Sell

If you’re a college graduate, you know the drill when a rep from your alma mater calls you for updated contact information.

“It’s for the alumni directory,” they say.

“You’re here for my money,” you think.

The rep is actually with a firm like Harris Connect, who gathers information in return for the opportunity to sell grads their dead-tree directories. (As little as you look forward to a telesales call, you should actually appreciate this effort. Better data in the hands of the university means better networking for you.)

Harris’s telemarketer did their pitch. Harris’s email let me click straight to a form where I could change my info and save, and the following confirmation page pitched me on the “Deluxe Package Set, with hardcover book and CD-ROM” for $109.99, and four other versions of the directory.

A Tiny Missed Opportunity

But then I got a confirmation email from them. Here it is, in its entirety:



Where is the link to buy the directory? If they had included one, I might have changed my mind later and bought the directory.

One or two things happened when someone wrote this email.

1) The product managers weren’t being thorough, in development of the user experience or when testing it.

2) The marginal effort of adding a better message was too high. I can actually understand this; they probably have a “legacy” email broadcast system which is hard to customize.

But there are partial measures. In decreasing order of preference, this is what they might have included:

  • A link to a Harris shopping cart page that knows who I am and what directory I might want.
  • A link to the Harris shopping cart, where I can search for my college’s name.
  • The email or phone number to buy a directory.

I’d be truly surprised if a Harris person told me that they couldn’t even put a phone number in the confirmation email.

And at scale, the tiny missed opportunities can add up to meaningful differences.