I am all for using technology to deliver or improve a customer experience. Technology can make business processes more efficient, more effective, and more transparent. The problem is, back-office process issues are also brought to the fore more efficiently and transparently. Translation; bad things can happen to your customers more quickly, and progress to very bad more quickly.
I typically don’t use a blog to complain about a bad experience, but I think this one really makes a point, really surfaces why a company must be very mindful about simply jumping to the web and eCommerce without doing the proper level of forethought (and who knows, perhaps some effort into journey mapping).
I had never tried ordering car tires over the internet. I know the capability has been around for some time, but it just didn’t seem to be a good use of eCommerce. In short, I didn’t trust that the back-office processes would work, didn’t trust that the right communication would get to a local installer at the right time, let alone the tires actually showing up at the right place at the right time. However, my trepidation was not due to hearing horror stories and countless bad experiences. In fact, I only knew of one or two people that had ever tried ordering tires over the internet, and they were not unhappy with their experience.
So, I thought I would take the plunge, given I was out of town and my car was in my home city and was in bad need of tires. So, I went to goodyear.com (sorry Goodyear, maybe I would have had a poor experience elsewhere, but you’re it on this one). The actual ordering experience was actually pretty good. In short, the technology did its job; what was the year of the vehicle, make, model, and up would come a list of all tires available for my vehicle. I could sort by most popular or by price. I chose the tires I wanted, and the check-out process was good as well. I could choose my installer and even set up an appointment for the tires to be installed.
All was well. I checked-out and received an email within a minute telling me all about my purchase, the address and phone number of the local installer, and my appointment time. I had a good experience. Well, almost.
The next morning I received a call from the installer. He had bad news. The tires I ordered were out of stock, and there was not going to be any in stock for 30 days. Well, so now I have my credit card charged for two tires that are out of stock, an appointment to install tires that were not going to show up at the installer, and yes, I needed to call goodyear.com to get it straightened out.
So I called, and explained my situation (how could they possibly let me order tires that were clearly not available), and after being put on hold for 10 minutes was told that I was authorized to get the next higher priced tires for the same price as the tires I ordered. Well, that was good, could they still keep my appointment (didn’t I say they really needed to be replaced?). Well, on hold for another 10 minutes, no answer and someone would call me back later. Well, they could keep the appointment, and they would cancel my order, but I would need to reorder the higher-priced tires, and then I would have to send an email to a supervisor to get a refund of the difference. I was less pleased. Especially when I was given the wrong email address for the supervisor and the email came back telling me in awful sounding language that my email could not be delivered, and had to place yet another call, and explain everything once again, and be put on hold for an eternity once again.
Well, my original order was cancelled, but the cancellation email stated that the refund could take 4-6 business days to show up as a credit on my credit card. So, now I had nearly $500.00 charged on my card. 24 hours has passed and I have not heard back from the supervisor. Did the technology work? Maybe too well. Goodyear could not seem to bypass the technology. I had to fix their problem. I had to create a new order and have twice the charge on my credit card, I had to email the supervisor for a refund of the difference (the jury is still out on whether I will ever see that).
And so, a simple back-office problem of not having updated inventory/out-of-stock information for their web site caused a poor experience to quite quickly become a very poor experience.
Companies like to grandstand on how important the customer experience is to their company. I have been in the service industry for nearly 25 years, and I would like to believe that especially the big guys would have gotten it right by now.
So, fix your back-office processes first, journey map the exceptions, not the ‘happy-path’. You don’t make advocates through your happy-path, you make your best customer advocates when you fix a problem you have created for them.