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E-Commerce Cynicism

My brother wrote to me to say:

> I made a order for Computer Printer Ink "on line", weeks ago.
>
> I waited two weeks, after I ordered, and called their customer service department. They could not find a record of my order.
>
> I could not cancel an order that did not exsist, so I sent them an email, asking for assurance that they had no order on file.
>
> What I got in reply [email], was an invoice number and a dollar amount. No items listed, no reasons, nothing. Just 2 numbers, an invoice number and a dollar amount. My guess (with the help of present knowledge) is that my order had gotten stuck, and they put it back into their computer system, a couple of weeks after I made the order. Because the dollar amount they gave me was slightly different from what I originally got in my orginal order confirmation. But it was only a difference of a few cents, so never mind.
>
> But I still never got my package.
>
> I waited a week and called back, they said one of my items had been backorder (some how they found my order), but it was in stock now, and it was being shipped. I waited another couple of weeks.
>
> I then sent an email and asked what the problem was. This time, I got another email reply containing 2 numbers, the invoice number was the same, but the amount was new.
>
> I still had not recieved my package. But they charged my Visa a second time, for a new amount. I called my credit card company, and they confirmed that my card had been charged twice, and the total was noticably more then it should have been.
>
> After 3 more calls today, and one more to UPS, I think I have figured out the part of the story.
>
> There was a mistake, and I dont know what it was, and they won't tell me what it was. For some reason, they did not put my order into their computer until a few weeks after I ordered. And at that time, the prices had changed. But that did not matter, because the prices were only slightly different.
>
> It looks like someone reconstructed my order, a few weeks after I made it. Hopefully the items will be right, but they got the prices slightly wrong. But the problem is not the prices, it's the shipping.
>
> I chose for my order to be sent via the United States Postal Service, but in this new weird order, that got switched to UPS Ground service. That type of shipping is no faster then the post office, but it is much more expensive.
>
> I think I have everything straightened out, but I will be paying $13, instead of $5 for shipping. I would have cancelled the order, but at first there was no order. Then they said it was on its way. ANd now, it is on its way (I have a UPS tracking number). It should be here at the end of the week.
>
> Plus I had to call their customer service department, in Florida, 5 times (3 times on the O'Connor dime, during business hours).
>
> PS- I never gave them my order (the list of ink products) a second time. Meaning, they had to have had it the whole time. But they wont tell me what happend to it.
>
> Just as a side note, I had order from these people before, without a problem.

To which I responded:

Having worked in e-commerce customer service, I can tell you that the people who design the software that the CS reps use to acquire information and "solve" customer problems almost never have any direct experience performing those CS tasks. Also, front-line CS reps almost never have the authorization to communicate directly with the people who write their software tools. Requests, suggestions, and complaints concerning the usability of these tools usually must pass thru at least one layer of "management," which means anything unpleasant or otherwise insufficiently rosy that the "manager" does not want to admit knowing about will be transmuted into something that bears no relevance to the CS tasks the software is supposed to facilitate.

When the customer service department consists of 10 people, with tool-writers also doing real CS work and no more than one layer of management, the system works. When the company grows to 10 times that size, introduces multiple layers of "management" and separates the people who create the tools from the people who use them, you get results like the ones you've described. Grow the department by another factor of ten, diversify the services and products offered by the company, factor in the Peter Principle and then farm the CS jobs out to a high-tech sweatshop in India and you've got a customer service monstrosity like the one you'll encounter if you ever have a problem with an order from Amazon.com.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
rimrunner
Apr. 15th, 2002 11:50 am (UTC)
Ahh, memories.

This is why I refuse to even apply to work at Earthlink. If I ever do CS again (increasingly likely, since content jobs, when they are to be had, are going to people with more webdev expertise than I), it's going to be somewhere small, where I get to work at the desk next to the guy who wrote the script I'm currently running, and who can tell me how to make it do what I want.

Yeah.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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