RESPECT: Please Alert Me Before Wasting My Time on Your Website

Every time you navigate on a website, you have an objective, even when you think you don’t have one. In this Web 3.0 era (the information comes to you before you need to search for it), based on your navigation, simple algorithms can easily identify you as being either in a searching mode or in a buying mode. Furthermore, based on other algorithms related to the order and the type of pages you are visiting, you can also be identified as being either looking for a more hedonic experience or a more utilitarian one. However, whatever your navigation mode is, the experience you are looking for, the amount of time you plan to spend on a specific website for accomplishing your task, and whether you are a freshly retired baby boomer or a freshly hired highly-stressed Wall Street analyst, one sure thing is that when you navigate, you want to be respected, to be treated well as an important user and consumer/future consumer. This last sentence may remind you of a seven-letter word wonderfully spelled by American Diva singer Aretha Franklin in her famous song entitled “Respect”.

Aretha Franklin - The Very Best of Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin - The Very Best of Aretha Franklin

Respect is a fundamental aspect of savoir-vivre in human relationships and in any shopping experience, so why should it not be important in an online shopping context? Thus, it is important to take into account that even though the user interacts with the website, every company should not forget that the user interacts with a website that has been created by other human beings. Why should the internal policies of a retail store include a code of conduct toward consumers/potential consumers, whilst there isn’t any such “code” in an online retail store for most companies? In this post, I propose four avoidable cases that illustrate how the lack of respect towards the customers in an electronic setting can be harmful in the long-run.

Frustrated user shouting at his computer
Frustrated user shouting at his computer

1. Incompatible Pizza Hut application

I remember this summer an interesting post (in French) by my friend Yasha Sekhavat regarding a new Pizza Hut iPhone application. The description of the application really captivated his attention and when he tried to use it, he discovered that the application could only be used in the United States. What would have been the cost of putting a simple one-line long warning on the page of the application mentioning that the application (API) was not available in Canada? How much time would it have saved to many users? How would it have reduced negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) in Canada, and overseas?

2. Problems with shipping overseas at Amazon.com

A quite similar case occurs when you take 10 minutes of your time searching and selecting on the Amazon website two or three super-techno-trendy-geeky products that you previously heard off via a super-techno-trendy-geeky website. Once you’ve found them, you just press the checkout button and lucky as you are, you find out that these items can’t be shipped in Canada. Once again, how much would it have cost to mention that these items could not be shipped in Canada or overseas?

3. A call-back facility as the last step of a registration process on the Videotron website

This summer I was looking to add a new Videotron service to my already existing bundle. I found on the Videotron website a 5-step process that would take care of my case without me having to take the phone. I was quite happy with this 5-step process until I reached Step 5 which involved an unwanted call-back facility. I finally left no information on the call-back facility and took the phone after having lost 10 minutes filling the first four steps of the online procedure. What a waste of time! How much would it have cost the company to tell me at Step 1 that the last step would involve a call-back facility?

4. Outdated Information on the Best Buy website

I used to like to shop on the Best Buy website or to have a look to see if one item was available at the Best Buy retail store near my apartment before making the trip. However, recently, it happened that not once, but three times, the website gave me wrong information. What is more frustrating than thinking that 6 copies of my favourite video game are still available and finding, once I’m physically in the retail store that these 6 copies are actually part of the next shipping trip arriving in two days? Giving wrong/outdated information is never a good way to show respect to the consumer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you want me to respect your company/brand, please alert me before wasting my time. Sometimes, adding a short highlighted sentence on the product page can save lots of efforts to consumers/potential consumers and avoid the spreading of NWOM. So what do you think of these examples? Do you have other examples where a company lacked respect towards you on the Internet?

Jean-Francois Belisle

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Comments 5

  • Totally agree with your point about problems with shipping overseas that we are all experiencing someday (unfortunate non-american internet users that we are). However, what would yo do if you find out that there is only a few percentage of your visitors that are facing this problem? Do you have to find a place to put this information somewhere on your website riskiing to be inconsistent for a majority of your visitors? Or will you risk that these customers spread a negative word-of-mouth across the internet like you pointed out?

  • Hi Jean-Francois,

    You have a very valid point and the examples are something most of us can relate to. To get respect you typically just have to give the money to those who make your online friction free. Here is an answer to your four examples:

    1) Before downloading any application always visit the “Systems requirement” page since the company tracks traffic of all their web site visitors. If there is a spike in the number of visits to this section they will realize that consumers don’t download unless it is compatible i.e. your minimum requirements become theirs! 🙂

    2) If a company does not ship to Canada you find a company that will and leave feedback to the first one that your business went elsewhere. For books you can visit http://www.abebooks.com – faster and cheaper than Amazon!

    3) Call back facility – you will quickly learn which industries who are still running their customer services like in the 19th century and telecom is one of them. When you read that they open a 1,200 staff call centre in Joliette there is a big chance that you will need to call them to get service. Unfortunately Bell and Rogers force you to do the same. Leave feedback in their Customer Services section. It’s the Obama approach we have to apply: each $5 counts and Yes We Can (change your poor service)!

    4) Best Buy and Futureshop…forget buying ANY electronics or computer accessory in a retail store unless it’s a 42 inch TV. You can buy any DVD from the US using eBay and pay 40% of the cost! Make sure you let Best Buy know that some eBay seller in Miami was willing to ship you the DVD for half the price within a week and on top of that you contributed to a better environment since Post Canada has to do the daily mail run anyway!

    Conclusion: just like the banking industry in the 80’s – remember those days where it was impossible to cash in a cheque or withdraw cash in any other bank than yours – all online business is going through a major revolution where the customers needs dictates where their money is spent. It’s reversed “push” i.e. you have to attract the customer to come to your site and make a purchase in the first minute. Otherwise you missed the opportunity, because there are 100 other options within a mouse click!

    Good Luck

    Martin

  • @Aurélie, thanks for the comment you raise a really important point. I would tend to think that if the company use cookies and most importantly login information, then it must be possible to target this line to the users/consumers that would face this situation. However, if the company can’t really know where the users/consumers come from, then I might still think that this short one-line sentence should be added, even though it is not relevant for a large part of visitors. My thoughts would rely on the fact that you prefer to expose users/consumers to information that might be irrelevant for them and helping the small number that is targeted rather than risking NWOM to spread.

    @Martin, thanks for your helpful insights, I think many can benefits of them. The solutions you are proposing seem interesting ways for users/consumers to escape the problems I highlighted rather than educating companies to act right. I agree that in the long-run companies will have to adapt to consumers unless these companies are in low competition area. Here are my answers to the four points you highlighted:
    1) You propose an interesting nice way to save time on API stores, thanks for sharing
    2) Thanks for introducing http://www.abebooks.com which is a really nice alternative to Amazon
    3) For call-back facilities, like you mention sometimes we can’t escape from these companies still living in the past century
    4) For Best Buy and Future Shop, I think there is still a question of trust there and sometimes tariffs and shipping fees are not that advantageous. However, I understand that there is nothing more rational than buying Monster cables at these places when you can easily find them elsewhere for less money for sure.

  • I totally agree. But what is really frustrating, as you said, is when you know that it takes just a few minutes to do the correction and avoid this waste of time to every customers but the company just don’t do it.

    I have a good example with The Source.

    Last summer I subscribed to a contest with The Source. I wasn’t expecting a problem with them since it’s a well known brick & mortar store. Since, I receive their wonderful newsletter about every two days, which is horrible I think. For example, I received one on october 15, 17, 19, 20, 22 and got a break, but I just received another one today the 27! It’s a first waste of time in my opinion, who really want to read ads every 2 days about the same company advertising items at retail price?

    So I guess everyone say “Stop complaining and unsubscribe!”, but that’s another problem. Every time I try to click on Unsubscribe at the bottom of the Newsletter, I get the message “Error unsubscribing to subscription.” It’s been like this for weeks and months. I wrote an email to let them know that I want to unsubscribe and their system isn’t working. Their reply was that they can’t resolve this problem online and I have to call them. For me, it sounds ridiculous that you can’t resolve an online problem online when it has nothing to do with privacy. Anyway, I was curious and I called them to see… and the CSR wasn’t able to help me, she transferred me to an english voice mail, when I called in french. I just gave up. What a waste of time! I know, i just have to block their email address, but it just makes more spam in my folder when I look if there is anything good and I didn’t think it would be so complicated… I guess they downgraded their customer service to match Bell’s standards!

  • @Patrick, thanks for your comment, your example is a really good one. I am pretty sure nearly everyone can tell a story about a similar problem related to poor newsletter management. I am receiving emails from companies with which it seems impossible for me to reach the “unsubscribe button”. In terms of permission marketing, we can call this a huge ZERO. What is the ROI of investing on a unsubscribe function? It certainly tends to infinity. Thanks for sharing.

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