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Thursday, Sep. 18, 2008 at 5:49 am

Offline Reps Need to Care About the Online Experience

By Brendan Regan
September 18th, 2008

I had finally tracked down that hard to find item online.  It was the right size, the right shape, the right finish, and a tolerable price…and free shipping!

I clicked the nice, big, obvious “Add to Cart” button to dive headlong into the conversion funnel.  ERROR.  Some gobbledegook that only a developer would understand.  No phone number.  I did what anyone in the mood to buy would do – I clicked the back button and tried again.  ERROR.  I clicked back again, and luckily for this eTailer, the toll free number was prominently displayed in the active window, AND I didn’t have any of their competitor sites top-of-mind.

Rep:  Welcome to [store with error-ridden website], how can I help you?

Me: Well, I’m trying to buy [Item X] on your website, but I can’t, so can you start by checking whether it’s in stock.

Rep: OK, I can help you buy [Item X] no problem.

Now, let me imagine that conversation as it should have been…

Rep: Welcome to [store with error-ridden website], how can I help you?

Me: Well, I’m trying to buy [Item X] on your website, but I can’t, so can you start by checking whether it’s in stock.

Rep: Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that!  What happened?  Can you describe what you were doing when our website failed you?  Did you get an error message?  What browser were you using?

A little empathy would’ve been effective and memorable…maybe even blog-worthy. Don’t sound matter-of-fact that your website blew up, or I’ll never use your online channel again, and your brand has been damaged.

And I’m sure the technical team behind that website would’ve LOVED to get their hands on the error code that I’d written down and done some tinkering.  And they should’ve, because that website was bleeding money yesterday.

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Comments (8)

  1. Generally I think the customer just wants to buy.. & doesn’t care about the technical issues.

    I think apoligise, then say would you like to place the order over the phone with me now? THEN depending on there answer would you like me to blah blah solve technical issues.

    Most people don’t have a clue really, what they did to cause the error. (past experience.. )

    If your error system is smart and it should be .. it should collect the browser info with the error.

    So i agree i guess.. its just order of the questions i think could be different.

    You know what really annoys me with offline reps? when i can’t get online pricing over the phone when there website breaks or there smart address recognition system doesn’t have my address.
    ;)

    Cheers

    Brendon

  2. I completely agree. I also get annoyed when a company’s tech department and customer service department have no integration or communication. As soon as you utter the word “online” you’re transferred away to another department.

  3. I’ll chime in and generally agree with the other comments.

    That happens to us in our customer self-service world: sometimes the site is busted, sometimes there’s a finite detail in the customer account that prevents the process from being completed.

    Usually the customer just wants his/her problem solved and doesn’t care about what we care about. It’s hard to argue with that, even though I really would like to know. Plus, the phone reps always have a queue – and who likes to wait?

    Then again, some Web dorks (like me) really want to report the site problem, too. That does come in handy as a site manager.

    I tried doing that recently – and frustratingly – as a customer while using the site of a certain very large home improvement business with a primary branding color of blue (and not orange).

    It was very, very difficult to get anyone to take an interest in the problem with the site, even when I specifically asked them to do so.

    The after-hours phone system was similarly plagued, but they refused to acknowledge my initial specific request that those issues be addressed.

    I gave up – and I’m not using that site any more.

  4. Have to agree with the other commenters. Vast majority of customers don’t know what type of browser they are using, nor do they want to spend their valuable time acting as our tech support QA guinea pigs. While I personally would love to give that info to a phone rep, the truth is that if a site broke whe I was trying to check out, I simply wouldn’t buy. I can’t recall the last time I called a company to place an order, and I order probably 90% of what I buy, online.

  5. In defense of the frontline reps…most are so far removed from the Web developers in the organizational chain that they aren’t equipped to take your information. Most likely, the Web error is as much Greek to them as to you. Empathy is probably the best you can expect from large retailers. Obviously, a savvy retailer would equip its phone reps with ways to report problems.

  6. I think UPS.com is the best of all the web sites when it comes to shipping companies. But one day I did have a small problem and called. The tech support was fast and I had my answer. Then I made a comment that if I was in charge of the site I would change the order of the menu next to the tracking. I said the two main reasons for someone to come to the site were to track a package or ship a package. So I would have Ship a Package menu item as the first item instead of buried in the list.

    He said “I agree, good idea, I will fix it” and he did right then and there. He said now refresh your browser and it was fixed. He explained that UPS has their programmers take some tech calls each month so there would understand what was going on with their site.

    For a big company that was fantastic.

  7. Generally I think the customer just wants to buy.. & doesn’t care about the technical issues.

    I think apoligise, then say would you like to place the order over the phone with me now? THEN depending on there answer would you like me to blah blah solve technical issues.

    Most people don’t have a clue really, what they did to cause the error. (past experience.. )

    If your error system is smart and it should be .. it should collect the browser info with the error.

    So i agree i guess.. its just order of the questions i think could be different.

    You know what really annoys me with offline reps? when i can’t get online pricing over the phone when there website breaks or there smart address recognition system doesn’t have my address.

  8. [...] GrokDotCom points out that offline reps need to care about the online experience. [...]

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