Web Informant #140, 25 January 1999:
Timing is Everything


When it comes to transacting business over the web, timing is everything. I mean, I go to the web expecting to save time. We assume that tracking down information, goods and services via the telephone is passe these days. However, the time saved in convenience is often lost at the back end when it comes time to deliver the actual goods. Here are some examples, taken from my own recent surfing experiences:

You can glean two morals from these events.

First, managing customer expectations is essential. While I still like Amazon.com, taking three weeks to post a reviewer's message is ridiculous. And there's no indication that your review is on hold. An email with something like "I'm sorry, all uploads are busy right now. Expect to see your pithy review in three weeks' time" would be nice. And taking two weeks to deliver a hat isn't bad - unless you expected it sooner. Again, the issue is managing expectations. Telling the customer when an item will be made and shipped should be standard on any site (and to the Hatfactory's credit, now is). And if Peapod ever wants to capture new customers, it better figure out a way to get food out the door faster. I guarantee that of people have abandoned their orders after finding how long deliveries would take.

Second, why did I save so much dough when I picked up the phone? Is the data available to web customers not as good as that available to the operators standing by to take my call? Or maybe the web sites can't really find all the bargain fares and rooms. Perhaps the sites are just too complex to navigate, and the bargains impossible to find? Maybe all of the above. Again, it gets back to managing those expectations, not to mention increasing customer confidence.

Back in the old days of eCommerce, just being able to complete the transaction without your browser crashing was considered success. Nowadays we want more from web storefronts. And while record numbers of people are shopping over the Internet, the experience still isn't as good as placing the order by phone. And if my very real dollar savings is any indication, using the web still costs too much!

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This Thursday morning, I'll be in Washington DC for the annual ComNet trade show. My panel of experts will be speaking on "Managing Your Email Mess: Tips on Getting the Most Productivity Out of Your Messaging Network." If you are in town for the show, stop by and say hello.

David Strom
+1 (516) 944-3407
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