I Recently had the pleasure of listening to a speaker who gave a speech based on her experience as an online shopper. The speaker was unaware that my profession was that of a web developer with a speciality for online shops
It was refreshing to hear an unbiased account of everything that was wrong with ecommerce for a normal customer. It was even more gratifying to realise that all of the problems this person experienced were easily corrected by a retailer paying attention to their customers. This means that this speech is something that every online retailer should read and take on board. This is not the complete text but it covers the major issues.
On-line shopping is also fraught with problems. There are still too many obstacles and too many grey areas that make it more of a chore than the positive shopping experience that it is meant to be.
A recent online purchase of a birthday present pays testimony to this.
The purchase was pottery – the recipient – my sister – was looking for specific items from an Irish pottery collection – side plates. A straightforward buy and an ideal on-line purchase.
I selected the pieces, clicked all the right buttons, paid for it – job done or so I thought.
Over a week went buy and no sign of a delivery. I sent an email. No reply.
Eventually I made phone contact with the suppliers who informed me that there was a systems delay and that if I re-submitted the order they would guarantee delivery in 3 days.
Here is my first issue –. many of the online shopping websites don’t give phone contact details –electronic contact is more often than not the only option – I much prefer phone to phone contact any day and the opportunity to state my case to a living human being rather than sending a message into the ether and hope someone reads it and follows up!.
In order to re-submit my order I had to re-access my account. Next problem user names and passwords and trying to remember them.
Passwords I appreciate are an essential part of internet security whether its for banking, paying utility bills or credit cards, itunes or ticketmaster. You are advised to have different passwords for each account and to change them regularly. I am afraid I gave up on that idea long ago. Passwords make internet use an un-user friendly system – there has to a better way – in an across the counter transaction – you will never be asked for a security code , that must meet certain criteria – ie it must contain at least 6 characters, a mix of lower and capital letters, a number and in some cases a symbol –
Traditional shopping is a much more straightforward process even if you pay by debit or credit card – insert your card, enter your pin number – seconds later the job is done and you walk away with your purchase.
As promised the package arrived 3 days later – the right colour, right quantity and right brand – wrong items – coffee mugs instead of side plates.
What next. None of the problems of my making but mine to resolve.
Online shopping puts the onus on the purchaser to take full responsibility for a 2 way transaction.
The seller benefits from an online shopping transaction just as much as the purchaser, however, you would not think that when an error occurs.
To get to the route of the problem I had to check if I had ticked a wrong box and purchased the wrong items ?– then re-check what I was charged?.
Next renew contact with the supplier , explain the problem and arrange to have the goods sent back. Repack them, bring the package to the post office pay the cost of having them returned and hope they arrived back with the supplier in one piece.
Who takes responsibility if they don’t arrive back safely – how was I to prove I didn’t damage them I am sure when I was submitting the order I had ticked a box accepting all responsibility for goods damaged in transit
I had of course other options – keep the coffee mugs myself or persuade my sister that coffee mugs were just what she needed – which is what I did.
Online shopping is here to stay but has in its present format too many limitations. It is I will admit the most convenient means for booking flights and concert tickets but will never achieve mass appeal until the barriers such as the lack of customer service, hidden costs and uncertainty of delivery are addressed.
It would be all to easy to dismiss this users experience as a one off or as something that is their fault. But the reality is that there is a lot to be learned from the irate customer after all it is your website / service level that made them irate