Nov 5, 2011

Does everyone need to have their own web stores - two stories of bad customer experience

I've stated it earlier that I'm a big buyer from online stores. Nowadays I buy most of my stuff from online stores. I've just recently had couple of really hideous experiences with online stores which are side products of a service. One is from airline loyal customer program and second is from sports website.

Here's the first story. With airline loyal customer program, I got notified that some of my points were going old. As I didn't have enough for any decent flights, I thought I order some stuff from their online store. Everything went well and I placed order successfully, only small things was that products never arrived. As I had waited for a 6 weeks (look at my patience), I gave them a call. As usual, then number on their website couldn't answer to my worry and I had to call to another number. From there I got a responsible person to the phone and she told, that it has been very unfortunate that some of the items in my order are not available and they need to wait for those  before sending those to me. She promised that in 3 weeks I would receive my package.

After 3 weeks, nothing arrived, and actually nothing arrived in 7 weeks. I had almost forgotten the whole thing and then an email came and said, that they are sorry for the delay, but some items are still missing from my order. It stated that they will add a special gift to the package. This time they didn't give me any estimate of delivery. It haven't yet arrived. Let's see if it arrives for Christmas.

Fictional Web Wanderer store
The second story is about sports website. I really love the site and they are doing really good work on their sports journalism. That was one of the reasons, that I decided to order some sports equipment from their web store. Everything worked like a dream, order went well, I got notified that they posted me the package next day and it arrived two days later. The only thing was that it was missing 2 out 5 items I ordered. There was no notification of partial delivery or actually it didn't have any document at all. I decided to wait 3 more days, if they were just sending the order in two parts.

As you might guess, nothing happened. I emailed the company, and CEO of the small company got back to me soon, saying that 1 of the 5 items had been out of stock and it's coming to me in 2 days. I stated again that there were actually two items missing, but I didn't receive any answer. Again I waited a week and nothing happened. I mailed the CEO and he told that it should be there today or if it's not, then he's going to send me those again. Not very convincing, since they are not sure if it was send or not. This case is also still open and I'm eagerly waiting what's going to happen with it.

What's common with both of these cases is, that online store is a secondary business for them. For airline, keeping loyal customer is a key thing, but actually operating the store isn't. Same goes with this sports website, their main thing is to make good journalism and then they make some money out of their web store for selling sports items.

Maybe in both cases they should consider partnering. There's tens of excellent web store all around the world, and I would imagine one of those would be really happy to co-operate on selling their goods. And I bet they could even find someone to operate it totally under their own brand. Definitely their profit per sale would decrease, but also their cost per sale might decrease at the same level. Also there might be real savings on time spent on web store compared to their main activity.

These companies are in totally different situations. For an airline, running a online store is not a big cost, but they might consider it to be strategically important for keeping loyal customers happy. Then for small sports website, having an online web store might be a vital to keep the cash flow. In both cases still they need to improve their customer experience. If they are having a web store, they must do it well. It might cause them much more harm than there is benefit, if they serve their customers like I got served.

Most of the customers are already sharing many of their experiences around the web. This trend is not going anywhere, but it will increase over time. Default level of customer experience have raised a lot with web stores. People expect to be always aware of their order status. They expect to be notified on any delays or changes. That's the basics web stores nowadays have to come up with. If they want to please the customers, they need to do lot more.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

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