20 January 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know

One of the occasional roles of this blog is to speak truth to power.

Today the subject, relax LAC managers, is TGN and the Ancestry family of websites.

The Ancestry Insider blog has an informative posting following on a talk by TGN President and CEO Tim Sullivan at a dinner, in advance of the 2009 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, a little over a week ago.

Reportedly Sullivan had three messages:

1. "Ancestry.com employees are real people who care about their work, want Ancestry.com to work well and use it themselves."

So what does "real people" mean? That they make mistakes? That they care about their jobs more than in any other comparable company? Robot technology hasn't advanced to the stage where I'd expect employees to be anything but flesh and blood.

2. "We're having a blast doing what we do"

So ... what does that mean for clients?

3. "We'll continue to make mistakes, but our hearts and our passions are in the right place."

There's plenty of evidence for the mistakes. What is that right place for the hearts and passions, and what does that mean for us clients?

This all reads more like something to boost morale amongst employees, but is free of any subject content - it would be just as applicable to virtually any other company. These aren't the lines I'd look to be coming from the CEO of what should be a client-centred organization when speaking to clients.

Sullivan reportedly spoke about Ancestry's three pillars for investment in 2009: content, technology and marketing.

A comment on the posting added some additional pillars that should have appeared, and that speak to what clients want including "excellence in customer service" and "easier navigation of the website's holdings."

These are areas where the pain of old problems may linger -- I still recall an experience several years ago leaving voicemail and email message after message and never getting a response. That still colours my perception of the company customer service.

Navigation remains a problem and is one where a more open approach would help.

It would also help if the company was more up-front about the content. When I read that a database of Ontario, Canada Voters Lists 1867-1900 has been added I don't expect that the only list I find for Ottawa is one ward for one year!

That's as bad as someone writing a blog posting with an overly inclusive title!

Another suggested pillar is "commitment to better quality control and fixing previous errors." I wonder why, several months after JewishGen data was incorporated into Ancestry, and having informed Ancestry, the listing for the burial of my g-g-grandfather includes the location of the plot within the cemetery, but fails to mention which cemetery!

I value my Ancestry subscription and expect to renew at the next opportunity, but look with scepticism at the management-speak reported from the dinner.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I am patiently waiting for Ancestry.com to add the Canadian Form 30A to their already great web site! I am hopeful that the addition of a database for the Canadian form 30A will unlock some of the brick walls of my ancestors who traveled to Canada during the time period that Form 30A was used.

Please inform your readers as soon as Ancestry.com has added this important resource to their web site.


Arnold Schwartz

Anonymous said...

Ancestry has advanced in its acknowledgement of its customers over the past year. At the end of 2008 they had the courtesy to tell me that my subscription was almost due, advised me of the subscription rate and asked me to verify payment details. They didn't do that last year.