Digital DON’T!


One of the ways that digital transformation works is that it makes things EASY on the customer. Whatever you do, make sure this transition is EASY. Today I experienced a digital transaction that was MUCH harder than it should have been.

In my continuing home improvement saga, I had special ordered some shower doors from a famous home improvement store’s website. It was a special order, and it would be delivered to a local store for me in a couple of weeks. I had decided to open a credit account with said store, and applied for credit while I was online shopping. I was issued a “temporary shopping pass” that allowed me to purchase the item that day, and I’d simply have to pick it up when it arrived to the store.

First problem – the website did not give me an idea of when the item would be delivered, other than to say they would notify me when it shipped. I did not received said notification; in fact, I wasn’t notified until it arrived at the store.

I forgave that little problem, and headed to the store, with a guy with a truck, to pick it up when I was notified. Well, when I got there, it turned out that 1) they didn’t actually process my payment when I placed the online order, but would process when I picked it up (a common retail practice), but 2) my “temporary shopping pass” had expired, and so the transaction was declined. Credit declines are embarrassing to start with, but when it’s a problem with your own branded credit accounts, it should be equally embarrassing for you, but nobody thinks about it that way.

Adding insult to injury, the clerk at the pickup counter didn’t know how to resolve the issue, and explained that she was new to that desk. Oh, no – a digital transaction that should involve very minimal contact with customer service people proceeded to devolve into a training exercise involving two other people who didn’t know what to do, as well as two supervisors that didn’t stick around long enough to see if their suggested solutions worked, and another poor worker who was poised with a flatbed to help roll out and load up. Meanwhile, the guy with me is frustrated because he offered to help thinking it would only take a few minutes (indeed, the Pickup parking spaces indicated a 15-minute limit).

Although I didn’t get the whole picture of exactly what went wrong, why, and what the correct process should have been, this retailer’s development of their pickup system clearly didn’t include the scenario of “expired temporary shopping pass” or persona of “First Time Shopper” with role of “special orderer” and goal of “paying with newly opened credit account”. How do I know this? Because ultimately they ended up canceling my online order and processing it as a one-of “regular” transaction at a “regular” register. Seriously if I wanted to check out at a regular register I would have shopped in the store and not online.

In their defense, “First Time Shopper” with “Newly Opened Credit Account” placing a special order probably isn’t the most common persona this retail establish would be developing digital solutions for; but I would think it is more common than they think. Especially with all the digital marketing for the credit accounts all over their website. It worries me, though, that companies are quick to roll out solutions without considering all the scenarios, or adequately identifying the priorities. If my situation was something that seemed unusual or abnormal, then sure, I would have cut them some slack. I still actually did cut them some slack, because although I was annoyed, the experience gave me fodder for my blog. LOL!

45 minutes into a 15-minute limit parking space, and we were finally on our way. Imagine what would have happened had the truck been towed!

So, how do we catch these digital scenarios before they fail in production? Answer: critical thinking about exception scenarios, and honest evaluation of how likely they are to occur. It sounds daunting, but drawing diagrams and mind maps can help drive out these scenarios. Get beyond your business users in the office who are experts in what “should” happen in a process, and get real with workers in the field who are experts in what “really does” happen in a process. Buddy up with marketing to champion the risk of lost customers to the IT leadership if they push back. Remember, it’s all about the technology the company wants in the hands of the customer – you want the customer to see the value in its use, and design processes and interfaces accordingly.

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