On changing the culture, On outsourcing, On service design, On service innovation, On social media

Harvard Business Review’s contribution to the death of printed media – a HBR Subscription #fail story

I am a business oriented technology fan that likes to stay updated on the recent trends and research. HBR is perfect in that extent and I love the content.

I use  Kindle on my cell quite a lot and read electronically, but I also love reading on paper – the tactile user feedback that paper gives me, the ability to take notes, fold corners and let my eyes rest while reading adds value to me. I also love great user experience. Especially it is important if you aim to target a group of busy business users and managers. I have enough time guided CEO and mid level managers through services that has been carefully designed with them actually in mind. Therefore I am utterly baffled with how crappy the subscription service user experience of HBR is – seen from Norway that is.

First, here is the invoice that I received, this is the third letter I receive that looks exactly the same except from the headline which is increasingly harsh.


#HBRFail1 – Pay option: Cheque enclosed


I am a 31 year old Norwegian.

I do not know what a cheque is,

I do not know how get hold of one, not to mention to complete one.

If I dig realy deep in my memory I think I saw my mom complete one when I was 8 years old.

That was back in 1990.

(As a sidenote, filling out my credit card info on a piece of paper and filing it to you by snail mail also feels a bit awkward, which is why I progressed electronically)

#HBRFail2 – Wrong URL


Last time I checked the TLD list, .hbr was not on the list.

#HBRFail3 – Unclarity whether my account number is 9 or 12 digits


As you will see below, this gives a cascading error when I try to log in.

Ok, I overcame these issues on the third letter, decided to give my MasterCard a shot online and actually managed to click myself into hbr.org/subscriberservices.

Actually a tiny kudos here, beause all these URLS work, it is just that none of them are atually printed on my letter:

I will get back to the latter four URL’S, but here are the landing page for hbr.org/subscriberservices


#HBRFail4 – Unhelpful help with the digit length

As I mentioned #HBRFail3, I was thrilled that there was a help file here that would help me answer whether 9 or 12 digits were right.

Unfortunately it does not serve that purpose as the account number in the picture is 9 digits and my number was 12:


#HBRFail 5 – Unclear call to action for international users


Did you see it before you looked at my arrows? Yeah, that is the link I was supposed to click.

Obviuosly I was a bit in the fog because it was my third letter of invoice and I had had the hassle of guessing the URL, and I was very eager to log in, but it would be easy to design the page so that International users actually saw the message. It fails the “dont use click here policy” also.

I did not find this link until I turned the letter over, found the phone number to the lovely gentleman Luke in the Netherlands, and made him a call. He was very nice and polite, but still made me embarrassed in a most pleasureable gentlemans way when he made me aware of the link.

Remember the URLs above? Actually the four latter ones send you directly to the international site, so why the heck did you not print one of those on my invoice in the first place? This might call for a separate error, but I’ll spare you.

Now onward, this is the error message I got when I tried to login – no wonder I did not concentrate on the link:


#HBRFail6 – Not provide the user with useful error messages

Remember #HBRFail3 and #HBRFail4? Well, I still could not log in with neither 9 nor 12 digits.

Since I had not received any e-mails regarding this invoice (it was after all third notice) I thtought that it might be they had the wrong e-mail adress for me.

Not a throught crossed my mind when I read that error message that I was on the wrong page until the kind Luke by phone from the Netherlands made me aware of the link and what I call #HBRFail5.

#HBRFail7 – Not able to process my MasterCard and to give me feedback about it

Finally, I have managed to log in (by clicking the link “click here” for, selecting my country and login in and calling luke). Now I happily entered my MasterCard number. I got the message that they could not use it.

I called Luke again (are you the only one in the Netherlands on the phone?). Nice, he knew my case from 2 minutes before, but still asked for my account number again (did you not register my phone number and have automatic popup/CTI Integration like most modern call centers?).

Well Luke told me that they had actually received my credit card info once earlier in May, but they were unable to process it.

Oh yeah, now I remember, on the first letter I actually tried the same route as above but never succeeded login in.

Therefore I (#facepalm for security in hindsight) sent my Mastercard number by mail. They had not been able to process it.

How about telling me? In the end I tried a different card, A VISA, with Luke on the line, and it worked.

Hopefully, I will get all my issues this year as well.

Thanks to Luke for being polite and helpful.

Thanks to the HBR editors for providing good insight and thoughts.

Warm regards

A true fan

On service innovation

Value delivered service innovation – 7 key insights

Today I was at BI Oslo learning more about Value Driven Service Innovation (#VDSI) in the results conference ending the 4 years research program found at www.bi.edu/serviceinnovation. I really liked what I learned! The program was well balanced between innovation in the public sector focusing on healthcare and innovation for commercial companies.

Here is a some of my key takeaway’s from the research being presented
1. The service innovation triangle itself giving a valuable framework to analyze and build the resources one need to serve value to customers (adding to the Osterwalder framework.


Furseth & Cuthbertson presenting the Service innovation triangle

2. An innovation triangle case study comparing Kodak and Xerox explainining a lot of the mistakes Kodak has made being too technology centric and with a leader that did not make the right choices ++.

3. The job of an innovator never ends as one has to continue improving and challenge existing business models to pursue new opportunities.

4. The launch of the service innovation triangle booklet, nicknamed “the little green one” (with a clear reference to Mao’s little red one, but with a very different ideology indeed!), see this tweet.

5. How users of a service in B2C can roughly be divided in 3 categories, young free and simple, the chaos periode, getting their life back. Or how was it? I found it interesting but did not quite catch how they had used this..?

6. How Norway’s humble attitude is working great for us in the Seafood, Oil & gas and shipping industry (Point very well made by a gentleman in the back as this tweet shows), but it is not shown in the research. Truls Berg also called for other examples than Apple, and mentioned Jotun leading on paint and Jordan leading on toothbrushing among others.

7. How important it is to be structured in documenting innovation efforts and the impact threy make over time – and how Cimit in Boston is perhaps the institution in the world that is doing this the very best within healthcare services. Induct Software, my former employer is a core part of that documentation system and this is not new to me obviously as I have been working with documented innovation processes for many years, but great to hear it out loud again.

So there was a lot of interesting points being made, but these were the ones I made note of mainly reflecting my commercial interest – not as much the public sector interest. What did you get out of it and do you find the framework useful?