Archive for January, 2009

Expansys - clueless systems, and clueless phone support, user experience matters.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Last week I was sent a voucher for Expansys, needing a USB hub for recharging Garmins and iPods and the like I thought it was a good opportunity to buy one. Easy, pick a D-Link 7 port powered hub, 20 quid, with the 10 quid off, a great deal, I had the voucher code and all is good. I then remember I want an micro SD card for the Garmin 705, so before checking out, I add one. Returning to the basket though, my voucher disappeared. I add it again, now I get a red error message saying “Voucher code not valid”.

Assuming that the software was really useless and marked the voucher code used as soon as it was added, rather then when the basket was paid for. Expansys support got a call. After explaining the problem they said the voucher code was lost, but no-one could do anything about it until the following monday. They didn’t explain why.

Today I called again - and this time Expansys support said the voucher code was fine, not lost, but because the basket had memory in it, it couldn’t be used. So even though the voucher conditions were met with the USB hub, simply having a micro-SD card in the same basket ruled the voucher no good.

Blessed with this insanity, I left it, Expansys obviously didn’t want my business. There were many problems with them, all focused on poor customer experience. The business decision that memory products aren’t valid for voucher offers is an understandable one - memory is a very competively priced and margins correspondingly low, and people can easily fill up on it. But the website development teams decision to implement that with a simple voucher is invalid rather than explaining that having a basket containing an SD card failed the conditions of the voucher. Or for real service accepting the voucher and applying it only to the parts where it was valid and 10 pounds off a 20 pound spend was fine without the memory.

After the web devs had failed though, the phone support guys started failing. The first guy had wrong information, but even thinking that, what he should have said - Why don’t you give me your order over the phone and I’ll put it through now. Once you’ve got a customer engaged enough to call you, reel them in! It was the week of new years though, so maybe this guy was a temp, and they can’t trust their temps with giving discounts.

However the regular guys were no better, again no offer to just do the order, just an explanation that memory wasn’t applicable and it was impossible to buy anything with the voucher if memory was included. Not even apologising for the poor site, and poor messaging, or offering to help, just stating the fact.

I’m sure Expansys internally talk a lot about customer focus, and putting the customer first, but what happens, as what happens in a lot of badly managed places, is that people start doing things to make their own work easier, rather than the customers life better.

Maintaining a user focus is hard, it’s easy to slack off and go well that will only happen to a few people, it doesn’t matter much if I don’t write the useful error message or skip over some edge cases. The reality is it matters a lot, because those edge cases are the ones that cause problems - they phone your support lines, they blog about the poor quality they moan. In the end you lose far more than just the single sale where it happened.

Of course, if you’re doing phone support or are a junior developer, then you’re going to need strong management to get over this. All too commonly though the management don’t care, because the middle manager sitting over the developer is looking for an easy time, and won’t argue for quality, and isn’t measured on how much the phone support team costs anyway.

User Experience has to be led from the very top, and it has to be one of the very most important things you do, if it’s not, you’re customers will disappear, in bad times like these, that’s enough to fail.