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e-Commerce: struggling to deliver international customer experience

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

Just a week ago I tried to make an on-line purchase. It was a gift, I was in a good shopping mood and I decided to make the on-line purchase on a French website, as I thought it would be easier as my friend the gift was for lives in France, and my guess was that it would increase the chances of a correct delivery.

I searched for the gift, found it, made some comparisons with other items on offer on the same website and made my final choice. So far it had been an excellent experience: It was a quick process, with clear instructions (useful because my French is very poor). The item was added to the shopping kart and was sitting there attractively, waiting for me to press the BUY button.

Which I did. Then the usual unexciting procedure followed:

  • “Please add a delivery address”. Fine, I entered my friends address in France.
  • “Please add an invoice address”.  Obviously I wanted that to be my Spanish address. I cannot have an invoice falling on the doormat of my friend in France who is the recipient of the present, can I?

That is when it started to get difficult. I could add almost all my address details, even the country (Spain). The last field to fill out was a telephone number. Oops: Error Message! Did I make a mistake in the phone format? No, I put the country code the way most web-sites accepted it.

The message stated boldly (in French): “The telephone number provided does not match with the country.” I raise my sight and what do I see: by some magical trick, the country field is not “Espagne” as I put it, but it has – apparently all by itself – converted in “Afganistan”. WHAT?? How weird. Of course, my first conclusion was that I had entered Afganistan by mistake myself. So I tried again. Country “Espagne”, and then the telephone number. You can guess: Afganistan re-appeared.  And I tried a third time. And a fourth time. Then, I gave up, and aborted the purchase. It was late at night anyway, and I decided to try again in the morning.

The next day, before I remembered to try again, I found an “Amazon-like” email in my in-box claiming that they were sorry I had abandoned my purchase process and were tempting me to use a link to finalize the process. Which I did, and wow, it worked, it had remembered me and my item and was asking again for the invoice address details to be completed. Still missing were the country and the telephone number (how accurate…).

I tried again. And again. Even now I had no luck. Now I had to decide: Do I contact them or do I abandon again? I decided this particular gift was worth it and made a call to a premium fee customer service line, which did not work. No connection. This is probably because it is one of those numbers that you cannot call from abroad (in Spain it would be a 902….). There were no other phone numbers available. So I tried to e-mail they had made available, in which I stated clearly that I was desperate to make the purchase. I waited that whole day but got no reply to-date (and still have no reply 1,5 weeks later).

Experience Consistency

In the summary above you can see what happened: I gave up and bought another gift on another website.

This particular company (I won´t name-and-shame, but I will send them this article) had just failed to get a new customer. Did technology fail here? It could be, maybe they have a bug in there system. But most probably they have never properly tested overseas purchases. So it is very likely that a procedural (= human) error occurred in the site-launch. Let´s see if they reply to me when I send them this story.

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