|Sun Sept 1 2013 15:43:41|
PayPal President Tackles a PR Problem: Account Holds
By: Ina Steiner
PayPal's biggest PR nightmare is not when a problem impacts online sellers and merchants - it's when a problem impacts techies, bloggers and reporters who can get visibility for their stories. And nothing garners outrage among audiences more than stories of account holds - especially when it's the account of a person or organization trying to raise funds for a good cause, or has political implications.
PayPal President David Marcus, who took the helm last spring, is now promulgating the message that PayPal is putting customers first and is "violently" changing the culture at eBay's payment unit. In a blog post last week, he explains how he is removing silos and literally tearing down cubicle walls to foster an attitude of putting customers first, including a video in his post that shows the physical transformation to an open working environment.
A "Concerned Worker" who says he/she is from PayPal's Singapore office disagrees with Marcus' assessment in the comments section of the PayPal blog post. "Openness hinges much more on organization structure than the existence of partition walls. It also hinges on where the functional groups are geographical based," the worker wrote, and said, "Round up all the projects and initiatives. How many of the projects remain unfinished, even though they had splashing launches? Who would be accountable for the mess up? Guess what, people got promoted well before there was any results, even if the projects are doomed later."
But one blogger who was granted an interview with the executive called the office redesign a metaphor for how Marcus was improving PayPal, painting a picture of a slow-moving dinosaur under predecessor Scott Thompson in her piece. (The PandoDaily blogger was clearly delighted the executive liked her enough to show her PayPal's "war room").
PandoDaily wrote: "There was no quick fix to what was ailing PayPal. Nothing that can be boiled down to a press release. An acqui-hire wasn't going to do it. A new product wouldn't fix it. Nor would a splashy new ad campaign, free food, iPhones or UP bracelets for the team. He had to deeply change the culture. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my career," he says. But once he did it, he saw that it could be done. And if they could change that, Jesus, the assets of PayPal were unlike anything anyone else possessed. Nearly 18 months in, there are signs to Marcus that it's working."
My first reaction upon reading her full post was that it smacked of revisionist history. It was only a few years ago that reporters were praising PayPal for its revolutionary move in opening its platform to third-party developers, including Facebook, whose executive Sheryl Sandberg spoke at the company's Innovate X conference just a few years ago.
Were reporters wrong about the innovation taking place since 2010? Can reporters believe PayPal now when it says it's being innovative?
Marcus wrote on the PayPal blog, "Hundreds of thousands of customers who may have experienced holds last year based on our policies are no longer impacted and we're seeing some recognition of that work - with a notable increase in our Net Promoter Score, an industry measurement of brand loyalty. We've also adjusted policies specifically around holds to demonstrate that we trust our customers as much as they trust us. Simply put, we've built, and are continuing to build a better net. Fewer dolphins, more sharks!"
But those kind of stories are not going away - VentureBeat just wrote about PayPal freezing funds going to a cancer patient for treatment. "Apparently, PayPal only responded after the issue caught the media's attention, and a company spokesperson said it was a mistake. The money has since been paid out," the publication wrote.
Marcus is also borrowing a page out of the Amazon playbook. In his blog post, he said executives at the director-level and above must spend a week at PayPal call centers. "It's a transformational experience that is changing our culture," he wrote.
He also said that when dealing with alleged counterfeit goods, PayPal now gives the benefit of the doubt to the seller while making sure the buyer is not penalized. "For small claims we instituted a "no fault construct" when there is a buyer complaint so that we now simply absorb this cost." He said the program benefits tens of thousands of buyers and sellers each month, and said PayPal will absorb $2.5 million a year to provide the program.
PandoDaily wrote, "Under PayPal's previous regime several sources have told me that the company actively tried not to hire the best engineering talent, because great developers are a headstrong, disruptive force. They just wanted competent coders who could get the job done."
What do sellers think - Should PayPal hire "great" disruptive developers or competent coders?
Do sellers and merchants have better experiences under PayPal now compared to 2 years ago? In what ways is it better and are there any instances in which it's worse?
Do you use any new products from PayPal - and what would you like to see PayPal focus on that would help you as a buyer or seller?
Is this campaign PR fodder, or does Marcus earn bragging rights to an improved PayPal customer experience? Let us know what you think!