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Examples of failures of the last mile

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Yesterday I wrote about The Failure of the Last Mile, and some of my friends were nice enough to send me examples they thought of. If you can think of any, add yours as a comment.

Companies put you on hold
“Cellphone companies, banks, DSL providers, spend a ton of money on marketing but then put you on hold for 1/2 hour for the simplest customer service. Amazon is the only company that seems to get this part consistently right.”

Yahoo wastes its real estate
“Another example – Yahoo! spent tons of effort on Internet search and then throws it away at the last mile by running too many ads above their search results, relative to Google.”

Sound systems don’t work and so you are sad
“Going to hear a wonderful, amazing, famous speaker, and the sound system/ microphones doesn’t work properly.”

Reservations should save you time
“Reservations: Why make a reservation for anything when you still have to wait once you arrive? For example, restaurants, airline flights (overbooked), apointments for your car to be serviced.”

Rain plans are key
“Not having a “plan B” if the weather doesn’t do what you want it to.”

Newspaper never optimizes distribution
From a journalist friend: “For my paper, what has always struck me is that we have an entire circulation department spending a lot of time and money trying to get people to buy and read the paper, to the point of sending out thousands of free copies as samples. Those postage fees mount up. Ironically, we don’t bother to fill up our streetside boxes which also act as billboards for the paper, and we haven’t increased the number of curbside drop boxes we own, which means that when people call up and ask where they can find the paper, the answer is literally “nowhere, it isn’t available to anyone who isn’t already a subscriber.”

Stupid newspaper also cuts off own circulation
“Also (you’ve got me going now), we have been repeatedly told that we must get on this “web thing” and yet company policy is to charge anyone who links to our articles. We are charging for free publicity. We are charging people who are pointing others to our site. Even worse, we are charging them $5, which is such a feeble amount it is an insult to buyer and seller.”

Investment banker gets reamed for small mistake
“How about an investment banking example. I spent an entire week and an all nighter working on a pitch to a client. Tons of valuation work, tweaking powerpoint slides, etc. When final books were printed, everyone saw on the front of the presentation that I misspelled the name of the client on the front page. And then I proceeded to get railed by my superiors.”

Any examples? Add a comment here.

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  1. Ouch. Man I’m sorry about that last one……now you have a good story to tell your kids 🙂

  2. APC gets it right.
    One of my APC UPS devices for home use recently failed. It’s about 18 months old and I knew that failure was too soon for so expensive an item.
    I went to their website and found that the warranty is 2 years from date of purchase(with receipt) or 2 years from date of manufacture and they have a handy spot where you enter your device’s serial number and they immediately tell you if your UPS is under warranty.
    I no longer have the receipt so I check the serial number. WooHoo! My device is covered! I call support and am on hold for only about 1 minute. I spoke to two very helpful people and after 3 minutes of double checking the device the rep tells me “OK, we’ll send you a new one.”
    That’s it, the device failed prematurely so I get a new one. I already own 3 of them and am now confirmed to always buy any others I might need from them. Which company will I always recommend people buy a UPS from?
    APC went the last mile.

  3. I went to a beautiful wedding a couple years ago. It was seriously perfect right down to the last detail. However, the bride decided to walk down the isle in a pair of droopy granny pants. Her underwear was clearly visible underneath her beautiful and somewhat form fitting wedding dress.

  4. sounds like the investment banker forgot to go the last mile by making sure the NAME OF THE CLIENT WAS CORRECT! All that valuation and hard work for a week was wasted because the point of contact (and front cover) misspelled their name. That’s the last mile. Your superiors are trying to get you to understand the last mile. You didn’t finish. It isn’t that your superiors didn’t go the last mile. It’s you.

  5. I was an investment banking analyst. You are shocked that you were reamed out by misspelling the clients name? You are in the wrong line of work. Mispelling the client’s name right on the cover is a pretty bonehead move. That’s the kind of thing people don’t forget. I remember hearing stories about analysts making those sorts of mistakes and they always ended w/ the analyst being fired.

  6. What makes you guys think he was surprised that he got reamed? He’s using that example to prove the point. Chill, guys.

  7. I have an example in which I was a participant but I believe has a broader lesson: Early in my career, I was working for a financial services firm. I was the writer on a proposal for a company with one of those names that is by all accounts is spelled “wrong.” So I wrote a proposal to how the name seemed to be meant to be spelled. And before anyone says anything, yes it was my fault–and I learned my lesson!

    But the broader point is that the proposal went through 4 drafts over 4+ weeks, and was reviewed by the account manager, his boss, AND his boss, all of whom had direct dealings with the company. I know they read it–they made plenty of comments. But none of them caught it, even though the name appeared many dozens of times throughout the document. The client, needless to say, did not pick up this particular service, and the sales/account management team wanted my head. At least until my manager produced the emails they had sent approving the drafts.

    So my point is that management at all levels has to be vigilent about the last mile–you can’t assume that your employees are doing it for you. I mean, yeah, it was the investment banker’s fault (I feel for you, buddy) but if just one other person had seen a draft, everyone would have been fine. So in many ways, it’s often a failure of management. Policies are one thing (although Best Buy’s are still funny) but enforcement of followthrough is key.

    To add in another direction, I have a good friend who runs a customer service center. He has the normal metrics, and everyone is measured on that. But he also listens to conversations they have with customers, and if he can’t “hear the smile,” he mentions it to them. He could just read the numbers, but they wouldn’t tell him about how service is being provided. It makes a huge difference, I think.

  8. I’ve got two recent stories of terrible customer service.
    I had a raincheck from a Best Buy near my house. That store had not gotten the item in for about 3 weeks, so I stop by a Best Buy near my parents’ house. They have it, I grab it, show them my raincheck, and am told I can only use it at the store that issued it. After some prodding, the real reason came out. The manager did not want to take the $20 hit to her store’s sales (the raincheck was for a sale price). She also refused to give me her manager’s information and told me to call 1-888-BESTBUY if I had a problem. So I call, get some attitude from the CS rep, and am extremely unimpressed at this point. The item finally arrives at the store near my house (which has wonderful people) and they call me, let me know it’s in, and I go pick it up. I tell them about the other store and come to find out that any manager has the authority to authorize a raincheck, it was just that she chose not to.

    My only other one involves Traveler’s Insurance. I was trying to renew my policy online, and I only had the option to set up a recurring payment (which could only be cancelled in writing, at least they mentioned that). So, I call the CS number, and after 20 minutes going through their phone maze (which mainly involved an endless loop of punching in my account number and then being told by the automated voice, “I’m sorry, but I need your account number to further process your call”) I talk to someone, who tells me I can’t pay by credit card over the phone for a renewal, but if I want a new policy they can take a credit card payment. They will take a check by phone, but I’m not fan since Time Warner debited my account for 4 times what they should have a couple years ago. Plus disputing a charge is much easier than fighting an incorrect account debit. So I say no thanks, hang up, go to State Farm’s website, and in about 5 minutes I have better coverage at a lower price.

  9. I ordered a desk and chair from office max on January 16. The 50lb table arrived the next day. The chair, I ordered a desk and chair from office max on January 16. The 50lb table arrived the next day. The chair, < 80$. Has still not arrived at my home. I've waited nearly 9 weeks for this chair... I am never shopping at officemax. And never buying furniture online unless it is a smaller shop, who can guarantee their shipped items -- and who doesn't sell items not in stock locally. They told me 6 weeks to ship, and now are saying 8 - 10. I dare say they'll tell me 11-12 once it doesn't arrive in another week. The last mile really f'd me in the a.

  10. Investment Banking Analyst Link to this comment

    Dearest Mario and Kevin,

    I was just hoping you could take a step of those high horses for a second. That example was one in which the analyst was simply adding to the conversation and MAKING FUN OF HIMSELF in the process. Kevin, he never said that he was blaming his superiors or going the last mile. And Mario, thats great that you’ve been in this line of work. And I’m sure in all your experience, you’ve not had one single typo in any presentation you’ve ever made. And that definitely makes you qualified to tell someone you don’t even know that he’s in the wrong line of work. Sheesh. I echo Ramit’s sentiments: “Chill.”