How Moleskine won my loyalty from Neo

Neo M1 smartpen

It absolutely amazes me how you can still get companies who don’t understand that happy customers will be better long term for a business than getting a short term sale.

About ten years ago at a conference I bought an innovative product called Papershow. It was a bluetooth-enabled smartpen that allowed you to write on special paper and have the result appear on a whiteboard on your PC, which could then be shared remotely in a presentation. It was a great dynamic addition to a Powerpoint presentation, replicating the experience of having a whiteboard or flipchart in a meeting room with local attendees. The advantage of this over a drawing tablet was that you could look at the paper while drawing. With a tablet you have to write while looking elsewhere – at your computer screen – which can be tricky. Anyway, I liked it.

I last used the pen a couple of years ago and had planned to use it again for a remote presentation I was due to give on a Tuesday. On the Sunday before I got the pen out to check it still worked – and it didn’t. The software was so old it would no longer work with Windows 10, and the company appeared to no longer exist, so no update was available. I should have checked sooner.

After some research I decided that the best (least expensive) direct replacement would be a M1 Neo smartpen. I wasn’t sure at first because if you look at the website it doesn’t actually explain what the product does. Here’s the link https://www.neosmartpen.com/en/neosmartpen-m1/

I found that I could order the M1 from Amazon for delivery on Monday. The listing I purchased it from didn’t actually say that it was the M1 but on careful reading and looking at the pictures it was clear that it was. Many product listings on Amazon are appalling, but that’s another matter.

The problem was that the special paper needed to make the pen work wasn’t bundled with the pen and I could only get it delivered on Tuesday, which would be too late. The neopen website references a UK reseller who only has an email contact. I emailed asking if there was anywhere in London where I could go to physically buy the paper on Tuesday. I received a response on Wednesday saying that they only had an online shop.

Some digging in obscure online corners on the Sunday yielded the information that the Moleskine smart pen was made by Neo, and that the Moleskine sold the same ‘n coded’ paper. There was a Moleskine shop near to where I was giving the presentation so I phoned them and a helpful lady told me that she thought the combination would work, and that if I came in on Tuesday I could try it out before buying. I ordered the pen, taking the chance that would be able to get paper for it before the presentation.

On Monday morning I also emailed Neo themselves, again asking how I could quickly get the paper in London, and also asking which Moleskine notebook would work. The reply that I received on Tuesday morning came as an unwelcome surprise. They said that the Moleksine paper was not compatible with the M1, and that I should purchase the paper from their online shop (not the UK reseller) which their website says will take 3-5 days to arrive.

At this point I was out of options. The pen had arrived and synced with the computer, and I’d downloaded the app. I headed into London, destination Moleskine. The lady in the shop remembered me from my call and couldn’t have been more helpful in setting up my laptop to try out the paper. It worked flawlessly. The Neo app even recognised that it was a ‘smart cahier’ notebook which I bought. The irony was that the presentation went ok but I didn’t need to use the pen. Oh well.

Being somewhat piqued that the Neo helpdesk had told me that the M1 wouldn’t work with the Moleskine paper I emailed them back to let them know that it did work, and somewhat tongue in cheek asked for a contact who I could tell that the helpdesk people hadn’t received proper training.

I was then even more surprised and angered to get a response that said the companies have totally different products (clearly not true) and that as an error could occur using Moleskine paper they recommended that I not use it, even though I’d told them it worked fine. Since I have something of a life to live I didn’t bother replying but thought I’d vent some of frustration in this post.

It would have made most sense in their initial response for Neo to acknowledge my urgent need, and to provide advice on the Moleskine paper as the only immediate option. They would have within their rights to point out that they didn’t make it (or do they?) and so couldn’t guarantee it, and they would at least have had a satisfied and loyal customer.

The customer service I got from neopen was in stark contrast to that from Moleskine. Guess who’s going to get my business in future.