I happen to love O'Reilly books. I regularly buy and recommend their books, I have a subscription to Make Magazine, and I was lucky enough to be invited to present dotProject at their recent MySQL Conference. By almost all measures, I think they're a great company… unfortunately, they leave a few things to be desired.
I've written before about some odd behavior. I haven't seen that oddity since a few months after that post, but I was recently struck by another one.
The O'Reilly crew rebuilt (or maybe just combined?) their user authentication systems. I one had a couple accounts with them so the process was quick and easy. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way some information was lost:
I had 20+ books registered on the site. Arg.
In the big scheme of things, this is tiny. It doesn't interrupt my life and until I went in to add a trio of new books, I hadn't even noticed. My book purchases over time have reflected my shift in job titles and responsibilities, but even that was just a personal curiosity… until I considered it from their perspective.
I'm in the core of their target market and on a daily basis I communicate with others in their target markets. Most of my customers are in their target markets. I've reviewed – both internally and externally – more of their books than I can count. It's an interesting wealth of information and I can't figure out why they'd want to lose it. I hope that I was the only one…
If you ever get this sort of information about your customers, you must do three things:
1) respect that they gave it to you and protect it better than you'd protect your own;
2) realize that just because they gave it to you once, doesn't menan they'll do it again; and
3) realize the massive value of this information and use it wisely.