With our Bodega 1.0 launch and our new way of doing things (e.g. purchase tracking), I’ve had to deal with a lot of e-commerce store providers out there. I now know way more than I ever wanted to know about a ton of stores out there… but what has struck me the most is how in this day and age, a company can still use email as a process component. Which is a fancy way of saying… someone has to email them to get something done, instead of just doing it through some web interface, and getting instant gratification.
I’m willing to forgive edge cases here. No interface is going to do 100% of what every user ever wants. If they have some freaky special request, maybe email is the best way to handle it. And when it comes to support, I still think that email is the best tool for this. It’s also a great notification mechanism between different parties. There are a ton of times where email is a great solution… but a bunch of others that make me wonder “really? you thought that was a good idea?”
Let’s look at a couple examples that I can’t forgive:
Issuing refunds. I’ll accept it as OK that a user has to email a developer to ask for a refund for a piece of software. That’s one of those “well maybe it shouldn’t be TOO easy” things. But as a developer, when you’ve decided you’d like to issue a refund to a customer, this needs to happen, and fast. To have to email the store provider and request a refund, on behalf of the user, that’s weird. The developer is on your team, they’re helping you get money, don’t make them jump through hoops to keep his customers happy (well ok, in this case obviously the customer wasn’t happy, but you get the point). But then after this, they go on to do the refund without giving a confirmation to the user. That’s just rude.
Having a human confirm what the system has already made clear. In the world of affiliates, we need to hook up two store accounts together. So the developer goes and connects their account to ours. The system shows them our account details to make sure that they’ve connected it with the company they wanted. Perfect. Wait just one second… there’s a bit in the database that won’t actually enable this connection until you’ve emailed the store provider to say “does this look ok?” As far as I know they just flip that bit, cause how are they supposed to know better than you?
Having a human do what a system can do, and probably better. Similar example as before, we need to connect two accounts. Accounts have some unique identifier, either a developer or an affiliate can do the work of putting that into a system and having it connect the accounts. This isn’t rocket science. And again, show more information to make sure that you’re connecting to the account you mean to if you have to. Why on earth would you force them to send an email, which includes this unique identifier and waste a person’s time at the other end doing exactly this. Crafting this email takes as much, if not more time than clicking and making it so. Where’s the benefit?
You’re wasting everyone’s time by doing this. When I email a company, I don’t know how long it’ll take for that request to be taken care of. It can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 7 days. The user was in the middle of doing something, something they REALLY didn’t need a person there to help them with, and now you’re introducing this indeterminate period of time. You’re having your employees do a task that a machine can do, trivially, at about a million times faster.
My examples were all from different companies. But some companies are a lot worse than others in this respect. One of them in particular must have a huge support staff, doing trivial things day in day out, because when you look up how to do just about anything, they give you an email template that you can fill in and send to them. This isn’t a mail order toy, this is an e-commerce system. What year is this?
People are good at doing personable things. If you have a process that actually requires a personal touch, email might be an ok solution. Issuing commands to a system is not one of those things. Issuing refunds is not one of those things. Don’t question my decision to refund an order. Don’t make me ask you if the data I’ve entered is ok. Sure as hell don’t make me ask you to confirm and enable the data that I’ve already confirmed.