One of the smartest, best-written pieces I've ever seen in a forum, period. Your incisive, solution-based approach has me wondering if you're prior military (it's a compliment)...
Hi, my name's Daniel. I'll be the first to admit I don't know the first thing about running a toy company. By day, I fix critical situations and customer sat issues for a large computer company. By night, I'm the company manager for one of the largest regional theatres on the east coast -- I manage the relationships with all the actors involved to ensure each of them walks away from every contract feeling like the only theatre they'll ever want to work at again is mine. I live, eat, and breathe customer sat. I get my greatest enjoyment in life from seeing people smile by knocking down the barriers that keep them from doing so.
This post will probably contain lots of things that may or may not be possible. These suggestions aren't rocket science either, so I'm sure these have already crossed your desk. If any of these are in process, consider it an affirmation of a job well done from me.
This is in no way a stab at you or the job you're doing personally. I think you're a MOTU fan, just like the rest of us here, that gets to work in a job most of us can only dream about -- bringing MOTU to life. Some of this might ONLY be my perception and not reality -- if so, some might say you don't have a problem at all. On the contrary, if it's only perception, that still leaves you with a perception problem, and that's just as bad (if not worse).
Below are several issues I've seen spring up online along with a potential solution or two. Are they the only solutions? Nope! Are they the best solutions? Maybe so, maybe not. I present them to you to do whatever you will with them either way. At the very least, you can read through this list and say, "Who does this guy think he is?" and laugh about it around the office. At most, these may reaffirm that your upcoming strategy to deal with these issues is something other people agree with or have thought about. At the very least, I hope it gets some wheels turning.
And with that, let's dive right in.
DIGITAL RIVER PROBLEM: Fans can't stand Digital River. Whether the shipping is too high (Amazon can find a way to get a TV to my house for free 2nd day -- why is an action figure that weighs less than 5 pounds THAT expensive to ship?), or you place an order and seconds later want to add something else to it, and after talking to 3 people on the customer service line their only solution is for you to pay double shipping, you've got a problem.
SOLUTION PART A: Whether it's a Digital River problem or a Mattel problem, it's a Mattel problem. Whether you're handling logistics in house or outsourcing to a place like DR, Mattel owns the process from start to finish. OWN IT. I don't see any examples of you personally passing the buck and blaming Digital River, but that's what fans tend to do. I see a lot of "Digital River sucks!", but you can't afford to be transparent. Digital River is your front door and sometimes the only part of the whole process that fans interact with. Mattel needs to take a strong stance and own the process from start to finish, even if someone like Digital River is handling the processing.
SOLUTION PART B: Hold Digital River accountable. If a customer brings up a valid issue, fix the helpdesk script so that every single DR employee that picks up a phone and represents you is telling the same story. Make it your mission to have as many issues as possible handled (and handled successfully) by the person picking up the phone the first time. If I have to speak to anyone except the person that picks up the phone to get something fixed, I walk away from the experience feeling like I had to work for something extremely basic. If multiple fans go through that, it gets even worse. You've done an incredible job getting inserted into the process, but every time something is broken it should get fixed going forward.
SOLUTION C: If Digital River is driving costs up, negotiate them right back down. They're not the only company that handles logistics. Actively manage the contract you have with them. Get other logistics/customer service companies involved. They either shape up or you guys find someone else to care for your customers.
SUMMARY: Own it. Fix the customer service scripts. Drive costs down by opening your options up for logistics/customer service outsourcing.
BIG LOTS PROBLEM: Fans get so irritated when they get surprised in a bad way. Spending a premium price for an action figure only to find them warming some pegs at Big Lots (and other discount retailers) stings. A lot.
SOLUTION: If you're going to sell figures at a discounted price, find a way to get it into the hands of your fans at the price you're going to sell it to discount retailers FIRST. And approach it as a reward for fans. Get creative with it -- have a sale where fans can purchase a figure, and for (insert cost you sold figure to discount retailers), they can add an extra mystery figure. Offer a way for fans to donate $X and Mattel will donate a toy to (insert charity for kids). See a backstock problem as an opportunity to reward hardcore fans. I know you've fixed a lot of your stock issues by making less, but take every chance to use any stock you have to reward the fans as much as you can, and that includes making them feel like they're making a difference to people in need.
SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE PROCESS PROBLEM: Whether it's right or completely unfounded, some fans question the validity of the meter and the accuracy of the updates provided.
SOLUTION: If you're going to have something like a meter, it needs to be updated as close to real time as possible. If it's hard to do that, don't use a meter. I believe the entire process was a missed opportunity, because you've got MOTUC fans across the globe all sitting at their computers pushing friends to subscribe up until the last possible minute. You've got people buying 10-20 subscriptions themselves to make sure the line goes through. The fact that there was ZERO Mattel representation when the clock struck zero to let them know if the subscription went through or not is a missed chance to connect with fans even closer. People complained about not being able to sleep because they were worried the line didn't go through. Be an active part of THAT passion. If the folks at MattyCollector are as passionate as you say they are, they should have been shoulder to shoulder with the fans to celebrate or lament as soon as the countdown was over. Maybe it manifests as a live webcast, or maybe it's a realtime chat or forum post -- but it could have easily been a way for Mattel to connect to fans AND nobody would have ever questioned the accuracy of the numbers of the thermometer as a sales gimmick to sell more subscriptions.
FAN APATHY TOWARD OTHER PARTS OF MOTU/POP/NA PROBLEM: The reality is that not every MOTU fan is a POP fan, and there's probably even less NA fans (I KNOW there are probably people out there dying to pay $150 for a "Scientists of Primus" 4 pack, so please don't yell at me -- no ill will toward NA fans at all! *runs away*).
SOLUTION: Consider changing the delivery model of MOTUC. Create a section on MattyCollector with every possible character (or a subsection for what's possible that year) and determine what gets produced by putting it into the hands of people that paid for the subscriptions. Let the hardcore fans that are putting their money on the line have a hand in dictating what gets produced. You say the power is in the hands of the fans -- go further with that. Just like with Grayskull, you guys want fans along for every step of the process. Don't let the figures be any different. This would cut out all of the polarizing opinions that stem from surprises when figures are released. I'm looking at you, Nepthu and Plundor.
GOOD SURPRISE PROBLEM: With all this negativity, one of the best things Mattel could do is to find a way to surprise fans -- in a good way!
SOLUTION: Get creative. Find the fans that bought 10-20 subs and do something unexpected for them. The subscription represents people that are the hardest of the hardcore collectors -- don't ask them to invest hundreds of dollars on a subscription and then offer things to the general public before they get a chance to get it. Maybe it's some kind of promotional item. Can you imagine if you surprised fans by finding a way to create an extra figure (a-la Wonder Bread He-Man) and sent it out to subscription holders? No packaging -- just a repainted figure in a bag. Maybe you offer it to fans that pay shipping and handling. Maybe that's too much, but you see my point -- GET CREATIVE. Find ways to make the fans that are subscribing feel like they're #1 in every way you can. And for goodness sake, send MOTU_Maniac a thank you card for buying 20 freaking subscriptions just so the toys can get made another year.
I hope this doesn't come across as patronizing -- I love this line, and it's awesome that the toys get to live on in any form. He-Man is something that I absolutely love, and it's been such a big part of my life. When you ask me what my favorite childhood memory is, I'll show you a picture of me unwrapping Castle Grayskull. I founded the Chicago Horde. When you ask me why I can't park my car in my garage, it's because it's full of He-Man stuff. Even though my roommate disagrees, I wouldn't change that for the world.
I hope this has been helpful. If you'd like to brainstorm or chat further, I'd be happy to discuss here/via PM or via phone (PM me for my number). Thanks for reading, and congrats on another great year of MOTUC making it through!
Last edited by air7walk; August 22, 2013 at 12:40am.
This could be the end of the world.. of warcraft.
One of the smartest, best-written pieces I've ever seen in a forum, period. Your incisive, solution-based approach has me wondering if you're prior military (it's a compliment)...
AUDACIEUX ET TENACE
Although I agree with everything you say, I presume Scott's answer will be something like "MOTUC is such a small line with such a small budget. Do fans want Two-Bad or a thank you card to yodafreakmaster and motumaniac?"...
Awesome sticker included!
A big applause to you Daniel... You pretty much summed up what many other fans have been asking for in the past few years.
Epic Metal music rocks the universe.
I agree with everything said and damn was that well said man! .... but realistically we've had these problems since 2008(?) with Digital River..... its 2013 and they havent fixed a damn thing. We cant add to orders, and returning orders or defective items is still like pulling teeth. Id rather be beaten up by a gorilla with 7 arms than deal with the over sea's team. Back on topic, they say the line will last till 2015 roughly, and since its almost 2014, dont expect them to jump on Digital River now for change. Sad but realistic.
"We are the tools of our own imagination, constructing temples and cathedrals in which our most outlandish dreams become truth." - Samael
Well said my friend.
These are all common sense solutions, but leave it to Matty's stubborn ass to make something so simple into a painful laborious task. Just the meter alone. Kickstarter can have an accurate meter that updates automatically, but all these people have available for updates is some office clown that manually makes a graphic when, or if he decides to come into work for the day.
One can only hope, or wish that a post like this would be a wake up call over there.
That Fan Apathy suggestion is tough: most fans both hardcore and casual would vote for the Vintage characters. Everything else would get held back to bring those out.
The Blonde Teela Thread
The Cloak and Dagger Evil-Lyn Thread
Sagitar (Jetlag) Horde Wraiths Azdar Belzar Chazdar Cloak and Dagger Evil-Lyn 200X Teenage Prince Adam 200X Teenage Teela 200X Sorceress General Rattlor (MYP) 200X King Randor and Queen Marlena 200X Battle Armor King Randor and Battle Armor Queen Marlena Ice Armor He-Man WMD Roboto
And fans complain about getting figures later at discounted prices, Big Lots or Matty, it doesn't matter.
And last year they didn't use a meter; it was even more nail-biting then than this year.
"Whoever says money is evil...doesn't have it"- Boiler Room
Very well said. I would like to read Scotts answer to this. I suggest to copy and paste it to the "ask matty"-Forum at mattycollector and wait. I would really like to know if the answer is only one sentence ...
Have to say, I disagree with most of your post.
DIGITAL RIVER PROBLEM: Yeah, shipping is expensive. Personally I can I live it it. Otherwise, I've never had a single problem with Digital River.
BIG LOTS PROBLEM: This is a ridiculous issue. These old figures have been offered more than once to fans. Liquidating old stock at a discounted price is completely legitimate business practice. If they offered the figures at the cheap discount price, maybe they'd sell a few extra sure. But it's not worth the effort of setting that up VS selling the whole lot along with other non MOTU items) to a willing retailer.
SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE PROCESS PROBLEM: Another ridiculous issue. Toyguru has stated multiple times that the thermometer was ACCURATE. There is NO reasons to question his honesty. Also, a real time meter wouldn't have helped increase sales in any way. Providing that type of up to the minute sales data would've possibly given clever fans a way to calculate very close to accurate sales figures for the line, private information which Mattel would be idiots give out publicly.
FAN APATHY TOWARD OTHER PARTS OF MOTU/POP/NA PROBLEM: Some people are always going to dislike certain types of figures(I think Plundor is quite lame). But putting the choice of figures completely into the hands of fans would be just NUTS on Mattel's part. As Toyguru has said many times, it takes a lot of work to balance out the choice of figures to account for unique tooling, reused tooling, 100% new tool, higher price items, etc within the budget. This is not a process the average fan could or should be involved in.
GOOD SURPRISE PROBLEM: I don't get if there is a problem here. Just seems like some random ideas for Mattel to give away free stuff.
The replies in this thread are proof that fans of POP and NA have, basically, gone away from the Org and aren't commenting as often.
Most people collecting this line are subscribers.
Most subscribers want characters from all the factions.
I'm sorry but that's just a fact. I can point to all of the polls here as evidence of that (both the official org polls and the less official fan-generated polls).
It's always the same 15 people saying that "most fans" want only vintage Motu.
I'm sorry. Most fans are world-builders, not avatar collectors. We'd prefer characters from the entire "universe" of this mythos.
You can disagree, and/or declare your opinion equals reality, but you can't argue with the big Org polls from a few months ago that resulted in the majority wanting Filmation and POP. Sure, NA isn't hugely popular, but people aren't hating the NA figures... They are enjoying the novelty.
I was at Sdcc. I saw Plundor in person. I can't tell you how many fans were converted by seeing that figure in person. So many people I talked to at the convention, said that they were impressed by Plundor. So maybe we aren't real fans??
I'd also suggest that your open letter is just one person's opinion. Mattel and Scott seem to be doing fine. The sub is happening. This expensive line will be going into its 6th year soon.
Last edited by bcrduke; August 22, 2013 at 04:14am.
A Want List of Sorts: Saurod, Buzz-Saw Hordak, Dragstor, Perfuma, Dare, Snake Mountain, Prahvus, Veena, King Chuboolu, Flying Fists He-Man, Terror Claws Skeletor, Point Dread & The Talon Fighter... and all the other POP & NA characters.
Besides, if figures could be voted for, that still alienates fans that want certain characters and look forward to MOTUC being much more than MOTU Vintage 2.0, I would hate for this line to have played majority rules from day one...the way it's gone was the best way to embrace all the fans, and still meet the budget.
and that's really the bottom line that runs under all of the issues you've mentioned. MOTUC is small potatoes for Mattel. We may not like what that translates into on the customer end, but the reality is that Mattel is going to do just enough (very little) to satisfy demand (which is small) for MOTUC. I'm just glad that we have the 4 Horsemen and the other artists involved to at least give us great looking, well designed figures. I'm also grateful that I've been able to get characters that I never thought I would see (I'm looking at you Plundor and Nepthu) thanks to good strategy and a desire to reach all MOTU fans...not just the vintage loving majority.
FILMATIONPRESENTS.:*~*:Thank You, Lou Scheimer...and Good Journey:*~*:....For Every Destination is but a Doorway to Another...The Time Has Come for Crackers The Clown and Chef Allen in MOTUC!
I get that not everyone agrees with the decisions being made or the buisness part of teh lien. But to assume that all these ideas/request are realistic is just the opposite.
DIGITAL RIVER PROBLEM: The deal is that the customers buy a sub and Mattel deliver the goods. Now I agree that some aspects of DR and/or CS could be improved, but like Wulff said, not everyone has had a bad experience with them or Matty CS.
BIG LOTS PROBLEM: If Mattel wants to sell (old) stock they will. There is no need for them to ask permission or offer them to fans first or whatever. Either go to BigLots! and get some awesome figures for 10 bucks or get over it (like I have to, being a European and all..).
SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE PROCESS PROBLEM: After last years drive, fans requested some kind of thermometer, right? At least some way of knowing how far thing are during the sub drive? And now, when there is a thermo we dont believe it to be accurate? Why?
FAN APATHY TOWARD OTHER PARTS OF MOTU/POP/NA PROBLEM: This not the idea of teh lien or the sub. The idea is a new "Classics" mythos with as many characters as possible, celebrating all incarnations of He-man & Friends. Dont like the line-up or buying half the line unseen? Dont sub. It's been this way for 4 or 5 years now!
GOOD SURPRISE PROBLEM: This goes against any and every good buisness sence. Things cost money. Giving away things = giving away money. And "rewarding" fans that bought more subs then others is just wrong. And if they would actually do that, I think a lot of people here would take offence, and rightly so. If Mattel wants to reward its loyal customers they should/could include some extra stuff with a sub figure or make some more figures/items sub only. That way people with 20+ subs get a lot more extra stuff and people with 1 or 2 subs, no?
Anyhoo, just my 2 cents.
Justice, Truth, Honor and Loyalty!
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I gave up reading when you started complaining about digital river....at this point people need to get over it.
I'm in the same boat as bcrduke, and wulff.
To be honest I disagree with the vast majority of your post, but mostly about:
Fan Apathy: your solution makes no sense, if fans got to choose which characters that were coming out they would just pick all the "A list" ones and the the ones needing the most tooling. There's no way MOTUC has the budget for that all in one go plus there would be little to no POP or NA representation which is not what classics is about. Even if they were done as separate subs we'd just end up with a vintage only line which not what I signed up for.
Good Surprise Problem: I don't know about anyone else but I don't subscribe out of a sense of loyalty or obligation to Mattel. I subscribe because I love MOTU and want everything they can give me. I certainly don't feel that Mattel owe me anything other than to keep making the awesome figures they currently do. Rewarding those that bought 10-20+ subs would do nothing but alienate and frankly **** off those that didn't and make them feel unappreciated. Guys like Yodafreakmaster and Motu-maniac bought all those subs because they love the line and want to support it like we all do not just to see what they could get out of it.
Very nice letter, air7walk.Fixing MOTUC Fan Perception: An open letter to MattyCollector/Scott Neitllich
However, I'm certain Matty already KNOWS about these problems. They just don't WANT to fix them, or to improve the Mattycollector experience.
I remember a letter with fans requests about many issues. This letter was given directly to Scott Neitlich. We're now 5 years down the line, and female MOTUC figures still have weak ankles ! That should tell you a lot... and that is just ONE example of recurring problems. The DR issue was a pain in the neck from day 1. Five years later, it's still there, and although there were some changes, the DR experience is as bad as ever, while most e-stores do a much better job for their customers. So clearly, problems were not solved.
Last edited by Prahvus; August 22, 2013 at 05:24am.
I know 2 angels: their names are Jedi_Kunle and Mikethedrummer!
Worship the Snake Goddess!
Round 2, vote for
Tuvar, Baddrah, Crita, Granita, Gray, Colonel Blast and the Snake Goddess
OP, I see where you're coming from but I'm not keen on one person's views being represented as an open letter. There are too many different opinions to factor in, and as such your effort (while well-intended) isn't representative.
Vaults of Grayskull - www.vaultsofgrayskull.co.uk
great post, bravo!
WISHLIST: Green and Purple Mask of Power demons, Blastar, Panther/Cat Men, Peekablue, Prince Dakon, Rotar, Twistoid, Kayo, Vizar, Lizorr, Sagitar, Quakke, Mara (prototype), Garth, Blackbeard, Gleedal, Gargons, Garn (mini-comic), Hawke, Fang-or, Great Black Wizard, Red Stripe, Granita, Brainwave, Contractor
This is NOT a solution ! Following that model, people only have 2 possibilities : adhere to a bad e-store... or just go away, which is probably what will happen in the end when even hardcore fans get too frustrated to continue the Matty/DR experience (and as the release of vintage figures comes to and end, I suspect that many people won't want to deal with the Matty e-store after that - and this is why we now have a 2 years period before the line is "wrapped up". It could go further and for a longer time, but people are fed up with the Matty shenanigans).I gave up reading when you started complaining about digital river....at this point people need to get over it.
The third possibility, however, is left well alone : the NECESSARY improvement of the Matty website and customer services. Obviously, this is the part that THE COMPANY must improve; fans can't do a thing about it. And it looks like no one wants to even begin to go that way anymore... probably because the Company proved time and time again that it was not willing to fix the real issues. But the sad fact is that defeatism, acceptance of the unacceptable and apathy will get you nowhere.
Good post! very long indeed.
My opinion is:
1st DR is not going to be replaced. Mostly for sure Mattel has some kind of contract and all the legal stuff and they can only modify service but not replace it. Yes, shipping is expensive specially for international customers. But the lack of an intermediate shipping option is that bothers me most, we always have a cheap and an expensive one but nothing in the middle. DHL delivers in 3 days and international post delivers in 1 month or more.
2nd Big lots is some kind of kick in the but for all of us but, If they do this in that way maybe it was because selling 100 figures on Mattycollector was more expensive than giving them to Big Lots. Because maintaining a web page running is not for free. Also we had the opportunity to get some of those figures on November 2011 and 2012. This is part of the game I remember I purchased Battle cat in October 2011 and the next month was on sale at half price.
3rd Fan apathy.I an not fan of NA nor POP but I don't have apathy for them. I like when people gets what he wants as long as I get what I want too. I don't share this comments of hate for figures, even when I don't like Plundor. Because there are people who like it. I agree it should be on the filmation sub and Strongarm in the main sub (but this is another discussion). The point is that the line is wide sometimes too wide (like Vykron or FFM) but I would like certain characters at some point (like Horde Wraiths and Kamo Khan). If we have to go through Nocturna and Peekablue to get them then lets go ahead! In time everybody gets what he wants and we would be all happy.
4th Fan Polls. There are a lot of polls in the Org and I am sure TG looks at them. But that doesn't change the fact that they have to use share parts and new parts for figures, and that is something it has to be considered when releasing certain characters. I love polls but I don't think this will change the character selection.
If this is indeed what is going on in fan's minds, I feel sorry for you.
I do agree, however, that most people buying this line want all eras at this point. There may be a handful that only want one era, but a lot of them are subbing anyway to guarantee that era gets made.