How to frustrate customers and lose business

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Obstacles to booking a taxi

It took me 4 hours to book a taxi this morning. Really? Yes. The company concerned is a well-known private hire company in London, not some small start-up. I was using their website to book a taxi for tomorrow. It is only because I know that they are not unique in this sort of problem that I refrain from publishing their name.

Here’s how you can imitate them, and frustrate your customers.

1. Assume your customers know what category they fall into

I was in the “personal customer” part of the site, but your website thought of me as an “account” customer. As a result, it couldn’t find my information.

I don’t want to go through this rigmarole. The deal should be this: I tell you my name and you remember what category I am in.

2. Force customers to use address look-up based on post code. 

Many of us have complicated addresses. I live in a block with 112 other flats. My postcode points to over a hundred of other residential addresses and dozens of businesses. If you want to irritate me, you can have me scroll through all those other addresses, revealing, incidentally, who else on this postcode has an address registered with you.

Here’s what I prefer: give me the option to type in my address.

3. Use website design A for the “register” process and website design B for the “log in” process.

It really irritated me when my browser (Safari) gaily offered to generate and store a password, and then that “stored password”  didn’t work when I come to log in. This is not a Safari problem. This must be something to do with how the websites are set up, because some online businesses are much better at this than others.

You can cause me a lot of grief by failing to interact properly with this stored password mechanism, and then I have to go into the innards of the security system on my computer, retrieve the stored password,  and type it in when I come to log in.

You can irritate me even more, and lots of you evidently want to do so, by telling me that the password has to conform to certain arbitrary constraints, so that the one generated by my browser is deemed non-compliant. This unreasonable demand gains you bonus points on the irritation stakes. My browser generates passwords like this: Xfr-1ng-6pE-ERG. Pretty secure, eh? So don’t tell me you want “special characters”, as one train booking site did recently. This demanding algorithm was only satisfied by a password like %$b999W*A8Sx

Here’s what I want: a smooth and beautiful interaction between your website and my browser during the registration process, so a secure password generated and stored by my browser works simply and easily for subsequent log-ins.

AND I want it to work on the mobile site too. That, it seems, is beyond most web developers.

4. Encourage me to set up an account, and then take two hours to get that account active.

It’s often useful to set up an account, so I have lists of previous transactions, and you remember my address and maybe my payment information. Obviously you want me to register then you can use my data and send me lots of advertising emails. Fine. That’s the deal and I understand it.

But you can irritate me, and you did, by taking two hours to send me the confirmation email so I could log in. And this was AFTER you sent me lots of cheery “welcome” messages.

All I’m trying to do is book a taxi.

So here’s what I prefer: just get me registered in seconds. If you really want to do background checks on me (why??) then do them later.

5. Force me through a lot of procedure before you give me a price

I know that an acknowledged sales technique is to “invest the buyer’s time”. The idea is that once a potential buyer has spent 15 minutes on your website, entering personal information, then they are less likely to withdraw from the transaction later, even if the price is extortionate.

It really irritated me that I went through a lot of screens and had to get to the point of paying, and only then you told me how much the journey would cost. You very nearly lost my custom then. But the sales technique worked. I went ahead. But I don’t feel good about it.

I’m still fuming.

Your website looks beautiful. It makes promises about sublime journeys and fast bookings. It raised my expectations.

To anyone out there commissioning a website: insist that it not only looks beautiful, but that it works for customers. Real customers. Real customers like me.



Categories: Business Life

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