We're Working On It

What's that you say?

The comics are fuzzy?

Th e wor ds areodd ly spa ced?

Articles from one part of the page are suddenly part of another unrelated idea of proposed fed­eral legislation that would re­quire chain restaurants such as Chick-fil-A , McDonald’s, and Burger King to list calorie con­tent on menus or on a large menu board article?

I know at this point many of our e-edition readers are waiting outside the building with torches and pitchforks and nasty computer viruses, but please, before you set the place ablaze, let me explain.

Yesterday marked the first day of a fresh new look for the ARN. I'm sure you've noticed the new layouts, clean lines, modern typefaces, rounded edges. Obviously, I'm rather partial to the new design. But it seems to have thrown our e-edition provider for a loop. This, however, is not entirely their fault.

The last two days have been a lesson in good communication due to the extraordinary lack of it in the days before the redesign. This is not because anyone was lazy or careless or forgetful. It simply never occurred to those behind (sounds conspiratorial) the new layout that it might affect the e-edition. So, no one thought to contact Tecnavia and prepare them for Monday morning. The system in place for pulling text off the page worked swimmingly for the old ARN, but the new one required some adaptation. Unfortunately, the PDFs were uploaded as usual and our readers woke up Monday morning to garbled text and fuzzy funnies.

Despite the mistake, several good things came from this.

One, (in my opinion, the best one), it's being resolved. Tecnavia and our e-edition team have been in constant contact since yesterday, combing every page for bugs and trouble spots. Our readers have been instrumental in finding the flaws and addressing them quickly.

Two, we now know better. The terrible, paradoxical thing about many mistakes is that you have to make them to know not to. The great thing about them is that
particular mistake will never happen again. Next redesign, we'll be prepared.

Three, our readers are paying attention. And now I know it. I was so excited when that first email rolled in, it didn't matter that it was negative. I know that sounds strange, but I love to see and hear people talking about the e-edition, no matter what they're saying. It means we're getting noticed. Flaws, I can fix; negative perceptions, I can change; praise, I can deal with; but silence is the least helpful, most depressing response I can think of. It was nice to know that not only were people noticing, but they trusted us to be able and willing to fix the problem.

I've read so many blogs by so many great people I can't remember them all about the correct relational response to consumers. This one from Seth Simonds on the Obsessed with Conformity blog does a great job of "summing up" (as he says, quoting the immortal Inigo Montoya) what companies should do when they make mistakes. And I'm proud to say, I think we did a darn good job this time around.

Even though the exact situation might not be pertinent, I think the lessons are relevant regardless of your line of work. If there's a problem, ignoring it won't make it go away. It also won't make your customers very happy. Neither will excuses. Surprisingly, it usually requires a quick and effective response to do that. Which requires listening to your customer to see the problem in the first place. A little forethought never hurt anyone, either.

So, for all you readers out there: We're sorry. We promise it won't happen again. I sincerely hope you'll put down the pitchforks and forgive us.

And anyway, if you burn down the newspaper, who'll tell everyone about your protest?

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