We all know that there are several big name ecommerce vendors who have a stellar reputation for delivering on their promise of a great online customer experience. From the ability to browse, locate user reviews, compare pricing and quickly purchase products or services, these companies have the online experience down to a science. They have figured out how to provide offers to me based upon my preferences, get me to enroll in customer loyalty programs and educate me on their offerings. There is obvious technical complexity built into each of the processes I mentioned – from the underlying marketing database, customer segmentation and large-scale marketing automation systems in place.
BUT, what happens when the technology fails? What happens when the big ecommerce vendor cannot process orders online or cannot take a credit card payment? Can these companies still deliver on the promise of a great customer experience?
In one situation that I encountered just last night with one of these large ecommerce companies, I would argue NO. This is a company that I have used on multiple occasions and each time, had a fantastic experience – all of it online. But last night, my husband and I went to purchase something from said company; we looked at the information online – reviews, pricing, comparisons – and made a decision to proceed with the purchase. When we got to the point of submitting our payment, we got an error message indicating that we should contact Customer Service.
I won’t bore you with the details but 16 hours and about 5 phone calls later, I was finally able to make my purchase online even though I had been on the phone with the Customer Service folks who were trying to process the transaction at the same time. When I had made the purchase myself and let the CS rep know that I was all set, she seemed to be thoroughly angry that I had the nerve to go in and make the purchase myself. How dare I try to use their public ecommerce website to actually make a purchase on my own?
My advice to these organizations? If you don’t have a process, a backup plan that emulates the type of experience you wish to bring to your customers when the technology goes down – and it does go down sometimes, no matter how big you are – then you should implement one or risk losing your customers. While online might be your primary channel, it can’t be the only one you think about. I would challenge you to think about how you can align internally to ensure that you make this happen and figure out how you will bring the same level of excellence throughout your marketing and purchasing cycle.