People know how brick and mortar stores work. The customer walks in, and if they decide to buy anything, take their items to the cashier, pay for the items, and walk out with the items in a bag. This is standard across most of the world, which is why it’s pretty easy to shop in any major city, even if the parties involved don’t share a common language. Since everything occurs immediately and within sight of the customer, there is no confusion as to what is going on.
Here’s how things should work online:
The customer browses the site and adds items to a shopping cart. When they’re ready to order, they enter their shipping and billing information, and submit the order. As soon as the order has been received, a confirmation email is sent to the customer. This should happen within five minutes of the order, and give the customer an order number that they can use to track its progress. As soon as the order is shipped, a second email should be sent to the customer containing a tracking number for the package. If the customer does not receive a shipping notice within the expected amount of time from the order (one business day unless the merchant warns otherwise), he or she will assume that something is wrong and wonder why the merchant has not made any contact to explain the situation.
You all know this already, so you’re probably wondering why I bothered to write out the obvious. Well, I’ve ordered from several online merchants who actually don’t follow these basic rules, and the most common and most frustrating failure is on communication. Here’s a recent example:
I ordered wine from BevMo on Sunday, October 26th. I received a confirmation email with an order number. So far, so good. The next weekend soon came and I had not received a shipping notification, but noticed my credit card had been charged. I was concerned, because BevMo specifically stated this in the first email:
When your items are picked up, we will send you another email with the appropriate tracking number.
I called them that next Sunday (a week after the order was placed) to ask what was going on, and was told that someone would call me back the next day. Nobody had called by around 5:00, so I called back. This time, I was again told that someone would call me back within 24 hours. The next day, they again failed to call me back, but the wine did show up unannounced. I never received a tracking number.
I still like the store (maybe not as much as Dan and Beah) but I think I’ll stick to shopping there in person for now.