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Key Idea: Keep Your Promises

Customers keep coming back when they know they can count on you.

Key Question:


This is one of those rules of life that we learn from our Mom and Dad that we know is always the right thing to do, yet as reality hits us everyday, it is very hard to do.

Q: When they felt like they weren't keeping their promises to paying customers, what did Greg suggest they do?

A: He suggested that they give all of their customers their money back and close their doors. Early on, they were not able to give people enough matches to find the love of their life.

Greg felt they were not keeping their promise. Rather than quit, they worked harder. They gave up on the idea that others would sell their services and went straight to the singles via radio advertising. The radio spots starting driving hundreds and then thousands of singles to eHarmony everyday.

They were taking the free personality profile advertised in the radio spots!

This meant that eHarmony had to provide mega service with no cash up front. They hired an experienced dot com systems person, Greg Steiner, who marshalled his forces. He has over 20 servers in a co-location facility in San Jose. Some are database and some are application web servers which are used to perform a variety of functions.

This is a demanding intense process.

In part of the interview that didn't make it into the show, Greg (Steiner) revealed, "There are very intense processing needs to actually store the data then perform the matching functions amongst all the other processes that are happening on the site. People are using our service to communicate with individuals after they are matched together."

This is a scale business meaning that you must have a certain amount of infrastructure to deliver the base line, but then the cost to run the business drops per user as users are added. With 3 million paying customers at the time of this writing and the thousands of singles that come new to the site everyday, Greg has to keep ahead of the game.

He also said, "The site operates differently when you have thousands from when you have millions of people. You are constantly uncovering certain bottlenecks in the application. We solve certain problems and then others arise. Some are masked for a time and then it is constant.

It is an evolution.

In the very early stages of eHarmony, 100% of the building of the site was done externally. You and your vendor have to be on the same page with well-defined product requirements documents, a constant process on the critical parts of the path with quality standards and plenty of testing.

Make sure the vendor is going to meet your deliverables and make sure the end product is what was intended. I've done a lot with external vendors. Prior to eHarmony and here. " The biggest mistake most of us make when we try to take our ideas to the web is, according to Greg, "...trying to develop too much too soon. It is very difficult to build a comprehensive application in one chunk."

And as you might expect, when the site started to get traction, the leadership of eHarmony decided to hire in-house engineering talent. Today, they still use external resources, but the core functionality is done on location under Greg's moment-by-moment direction. The software is custom and all enterprise Java, Windows 2000 and Linux with a Microsoft back end database.

Think about it

Do you keep your promises?

Clip from: eHarmony

Pasadena, California:  Meet Dr. Neil Clark Warren. He has always been an excellent marriage counselor;  failures in marriage bothered him.  He decided to look into the broken heart of divorce. He probed and researched 512 couples -- divorce autopsies -- and discovered most of these people married the wrong person. He wrote a book about it and that book was selling well, until Oprah invited him to come on her show. Of course, sales exploded. When his son-in-law challenged him to expand his reach, they took that business to the web and almost lost everything.  That was 2001; the dot.coms had become dot.bombs.

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Neil Clark Warren, Founder

300 N. Lake Ave.
Suite 1111
Pasadena, CA 91101

Visit our web site:

Office: 6267954814

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 2000

Keep Your Promises

NEIL: (Voiceover) Most important single thing in getting married right is to start with an emotionally healthy you and then you find an emotionally healthy other. Now you have a real chance.

Team member #5: Thank you for calling eHarmony.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Today, millions have a chance at eHarmony.

GREG STEINER: You have any idea what the.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) And it's the VP of Operations, Greg Steiner, who has to keep the intricate infrastructure functioning under the weight of fast growth.

GREG STEINER: The team is able to keep up with the volume that's coming in. (Voiceover): Do we have any really good data on the FAQ.

GREG STEINER: And we make the place run. So we make every effort possible to make sure we have a very highly available service, 24 hours a day seven days a week, 365 days of the year so people can come and find the love of their life anytime they wish.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Marylyn Warren has been married to Neil Clark since 1959. She's responsible for working with the media.

MARYLYN WARREN: I get an opportunity to talk to our successful couples which is really our favorite thing to do because they have such extraordinary stories and they're so full of enthusiasm. We had taken some stills of a lot of our couples and we had a wonderful photographer, and the thing I love about this it's such a spontaneous picture and I think it tells the story about what happens when people meet on eHarmony and they're lives are totally changed.

NEIL: There about 3,000 of these dating sites and we, when we started I promise you that we were number 3,000.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Greg says he and Neil came close to quitting.

GREG FORGATCH: (Voiceover) In March of 2001... Neil knows exactly where he was sitting in his office and I know where I was sitting. When Neil said, "If we close our doors now, we could give back, we have enough money to give back on a pro rated basis all the subscriptions that have been purchased, close our doors."

We never had debt, so everybody will be whole and we can -- we can close this down respectfully. And here's the challenge in March of 2001, we didn't have the critical mass. We weren't making enough matches. So here we were the prior month about to...

HATTIE: Quit, you were going to quit.

GREG FORGATCH: We were going to take care of people.

HATTIE: You were going to quit.

GREG FORGATCH: We were going to quit.

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