Idearc Media’s SuperGuarantee…. what’s all the fuss about it?

October 5, 2009

Mondays are typically the day of greatest change.  CHANGE– It is only a 6 letter word but can embrace the meaning of many words. Last Friday was officially my last day as an employee of Idearc Media (it is interesting how folks seem choose to leave or get the pink slip only on Fridays).  I started the company in August of 2000 as a “telephone call-center” sales representative.  Most recently I worked in the (Irving)  Texas local sales office which services the entire state of Texas.  Change has been taking place at the Idearc Media Texas “division” office for the past few months. Personally in my final weeks at Idearc, I had two different District Sales Managers.

Change is also in the air at Idearc as it attempts to fight back against a path of doom and gloom in the print Yellow Pages environment. It is obvious that the above average or average computer user is no longer using the printed media to locate a local plumber or attorney. Although the industry will continue to spit out 5 year old stats from CRM Associates President – Dr. Dennis Fromholzer, who is the leading world expert on “printed” Yellow Pages. You see, the problem with this information is that it is biased. It comes from a source that is paid to produce it.  While working at Idearc,  I found it very hypocritical of the company to ask and push for syndicated research on Yellow Pages as it pertains to the discussion of usage, preference, and the possession of the Verizon Yellow Pages product vs Yellow Book USA’s printed Yellow Pages product.   I am not going to continue the ongoing debate on the uses of print yellow pages, but I want to make sure that folks are fully aware of what is going on.  As an employee of Idearc I was discouraged to discuss what is going on in the industry as well as the company due to the nature of employment. Most recently a very interesting serious of events took place on Ed Kohler’s blog The Deets and I posted about the discussion. Media Consultants at Idearc are instructed to leave discussions about what is going on at Idearc (might also be because policing 3000 sales reps in a social media bathroom wall environment is theoretically impossible) alone via fear of termination. Although it was apparent that Idearc wanted me todrink the Kool-Aidwhen working with clients regarding my personal beliefs of print yellow page usage, I still persisted to reach out and share my opinions. In my opinion what makes a successful media organization is a culture that embraces questions. Questions is how you uncover what CHANGE needs to take place. Idearc Media’s previous (and maybe current–although I have some faith in the new Jefe in town) management team did not want to ask questions. Questions such as how to mitigate issues with receivables and delivering quality leads to non-paying customers. Questions about sales fraud and how serious an issue it is (local sales management folks turned the other cheek in many occasions).  Questions regarding pricing and how a new client can purchase the same size ad for a significantly reduced cost vs an existing advertiser. So many questions and so few attempting to create the solutions to these issues with the right answers.

As many issues Idearc Media has in the sales offices, down the road at DFW Airport the marketing team that Scott Klein has in place have come up with a very well concoct plan to get consumers to use the Verizon Yellow Pages vs other brands in the Yellow Page industry. Since 2001 sales of yellow pages have been falling (an assumptive opinion strictly based on the fact that Verizon did not fully disclose what was taking place with the Yellow Pages division) like a rock. I have seen local Dallas area books come in at negative percentages for years. While Idearc states to the investment community that is was cyclical and due to an economic recession, growth for Google in the local segment has been skyrocketing. Why you may ask? Well my opinion is that Google has more credibility with its offering. Transparency, Price, Usage, and Distribution—- all the things that Idearc states separate its product offering from the competition.

So, what is Idearc’s solution to creating a brand advantage and distinguishing the product from competition this year? The SUPERGUARANTEE program – A $500 reimbursement for Labor on Services Rendered by participating advertisers. When you actually take the time to read the terms and conditions of the product (revised July 30th 2009) it is very clear that Idearc has no intent on being fully transparent. It is more of a marketing gimmick than a real Guarantee. Why you may ask? Here are a few things that you may want to be aware of before getting on board with the FUSS:                               source———> http://www.idearcmedia.com/CammsServlet?assetid=10236

  • Subcontracted services are not eligible for the SuperGuarantee program –  “Subcontracted Services Excluded”
  • You must enter a written contract with service provider prior to services being rendered. Signed by both parties. Labor needs to be itemized
  • Submited claims for the SuperGuarantee must be filed within 30 days of service completion and no later than 90 days from registration date.
  • SuperGuarantee may ask you to obtain & provide to us 2 written estimates of the labor costs to correct the problem described in your claim

and the ones that completely will drive any consumer insane:

  • it may take up to six weeks from the time you submit your claim & all required documentation to complete resolution or payment of your claim
  • Idearc reserves the right to determine that your claim is valid with ” sole discretion”

Well, if politicians and lawmakers actually took the time to read the bill before voting on laws and issues in Washington we consumers would have more money to spend today. So, my warning to advertisers and consumers is be aware of the details of the program prior to participating. I personally believe that Idearc is going the right direction with the SuperGuarantee. It is a step forward to differentiate the product from those of its competitors. The fuss has merit, but just like anything else with corporate marketing, it manages to lose FUSS after reading the fine print.

Personally, I wish Idearc the best going forward. I am no longer with the organization after 10 years due to my inability to conform. I don’t think such a large agency will ever put the client first and foremost before profits. Idearc is accustomed to high margins from the print business, and you just can’t do that with Local Search (we all know that Google, MSN, and Yahoo make all the REAL $$).  In web marketing you must become an authority. Idearc is not in the business of creating authoritative websites online, other than its http://www.Superpages.com, http://www.LocalSearch.com, and http://www.Switchboard.com sites. If they did they would have already upgraded all the sales reps to IE7 from IE6, put an emphasis on content collection, search engine optimization, social media, and the 9 million other things that local search marketing agencies manage do discuss with local small medium businesses.