Anthony Leaper from SAP wrote a great article in on entitled, “5 Stupefying Statements from the CRM Call Center (and what to do about them)” that examined some common, yet absurdly stupid, call center faux pas that make customers want to whack themselves (or more likely the hapless call center agent) in the head with their smart phone. Anthony provided five great examples, and I’d like to add one more.

Stupefying Statement: “We can’t modify your order, it’s already being processed.”

Unfortunately, for reasons that have to do with my fetish for high-end European bicycle racing components and accessories, I regularly find myself ordering high-end cycling gear from one of several UK-based specialty retailers who are definitely not Amazon or Zappos (both of whom I love more dearly than our family dog). And invariably, nearly every time I order from one of these other online retailers who are not Zappos or Amazon, I brace myself for the worst. Instead of the free overnight or two-day shipping, I know I will likely have to wait several days for my order to be even be processed and shipped, and then several additional weeks for the package to actually arrive via what I can only imagine is some old, three legged mule with an arthritic back who handles all of their deliveries.

OK, whatever.  I’ve come to accept this. If you want the absolute lightest, strongest, sleekest, sexiest bicycle parts in the world, you have to pay in Euros and you have to wait weeks while your products float slowly across the Atlantic in a leaky rowboat and on the back of the aforementioned arthritic mule. Fine, patience is the greatest of all virtues. I get it. But the one thing that I still cannot tolerate or fathom, no matter how many times it happens, is when a call center agents tells me that they can’t make any changes to the order I just placed online (literally only seconds ago) because the order is already being processed.

As we all know, not all e-Commerce websites are equally well-designed, and some can be terribly complex and unhelpful. I like to believe that I’m fairly adept at clicking the “Add to cart” button and that I am not a complete idiot. But from time to time, I have been known to accidentally select the wrong size, color, or number of items. My good friends at Zappos have no problem with this. “No, problem Mr. Burton, that’s our mistake. Let us correct that for you.” But the folks at Euro Snobbery Bikes generally take a different approach. “Well sir, why did you add the super-duper-ultra-light thingamajig to the cart if you really wanted the über-duper-ultra-light thingamajig? In any case, there’s nothing we can do about it now. The order is already being processed.”

What the hell do they mean that it’s being “processed”? I literally just pressed the “submit order” button seconds ago. Do they seriously want me to believe that magical elves have already picked, pulled, packed, and shipped my order in record time? And if so, great – but where’s my confirmation email and courier tracking ID? At this point the unhelpful call center agent usually confesses that no, the order hasn’t actually been shipped yet, but that the company’s front-end CRM system that the agent is using is not connected to the back-end ERP system that the warehouse uses to fulfill the order. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere…

Many companies, whether through poor planning, or perhaps as a result of mergers and acquisitions, find themselves in a situation where their front-end CRM system doesn’t communicate with their back-end ERP system. This is what is known as, “your-front-office-personnel-have-no-idea-what-products-are-in-stock-and-they-can’t-even-make-simple-modifications-to-an-existing-order”. And it’s bad. Bad for your company, bad for your employees, and bad for your customers. Without seamless integration between the front office and the back office, Marketing professionals don’t know which products to promote; order entry professionals can’t provide accurate availability or shipping information; and customer service agents can’t make even the simplest changes to existing orders. Instead, customers end up losing their patience, employees end up losing their cool, and your company can end up losing business.