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Where’s My Stuff? Why Constant Clarity on Order Status is a Valuable Commodity

Posted on  | November 11, 2010   Bookmark and Share
Written by | Robert Dwyer

It’s been almost a month now since I placed the order. It seemed to go off without a hitch and the e-commerce retailer inspired confidence they could ship to Massachusetts by partnering with a local retailer for fulfillment. I received a confirmation E-mail shortly after placing the order, and thennothing. The two bottles of premium Napa Cabernet Sauvignon I thought I was getting a great deal on still haven’t arrived, and throughout the process I’ve thought: Shouldn’t it be easier to check my order status? I mean: Where’s my stuff?

Admittedly, this particular transaction was a complicated one. But even in seemingly straightforward transactions, complications arise. Weather contingencies, decisions about whether to ship a partial case, the retailer is waiting on a bottle or two to arrive from their supplier, etc. Whatever the cause, when stuff I bought doesn’t show up - even if my credit card hasn’t been charged yet - I get ever so slightly annoyed. Not that it’s the biggest deal in the world - it’s just that we all have a dozen things we’re chasing in a given week and we don’t need another task. Having constant clarity into the status of my order would go a long way towards making me happier with a transaction and in turn the retailer I’m doing business with.

What would be nice is an Order Status button in the confirmation E-mail I receive that takes me directly to a page where I can get more information on each order. And, in case I never receive a confirmation E-mail, a similar button when I log into my account on the retailer’s website. Once I have a tracking order things are more understandable - I’m talking about the steps prior to shipment. If I didn’t see my order progressing after a week I’d know something was wrong and could take corrective action. However, when the only status I receive is manually obtained via E-mail or a phone call I’ve already experienced some level of dissatisfaction. Better to avoid bottlenecks associated with time zone differences and response time delays by enabling customers to see order status without interacting unnecessarily with the retailer.

I realize what I’m asking for isn’t easy to automate, and maybe automation isn’t the key to customer satisfaction. A presence-aware communication system could fill the gap in situations where the order processing system isn’t so sophisticated. This could be achieved by participating in social channels like Twitter or Facebook, a live-chat option on the retailer’s website, or instant messaging. I’m far more likely to initiate communication with someone I know is present. The key is to allow customers to communicate in the ways most convenient for them at the times most convenient for them.

Amazon.com and communication enabled by Twitter and Facebook have spoiled us as customers. We expect one-click access to our order status and when it’s not available we expect nearly-instantaneous responses to our inquiries. Will I eventually be happy with the retailer offering the deep-discount Napa Cabernet? Possibly. But sometimes it feels like the last thing I need to bother with. Some retailers might suggest I lighten up. That’s fine. My advice to them is to improve their fulfillment systems to provide constant clarity into order status. If that’s difficult then be accessible and present online. You never know when a conversation about order fulfillment might turn into a discussion about a future order.

Comments

2 Responses to “Where’s My Stuff? Why Constant Clarity on Order Status is a Valuable Commodity”

  1. Ian Griffith
    November 11th, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    Bob, I agree that the wait before you receive the shipping notice is a point of pain many wine stores don’t handle well. Several ecommerce systems, ours included, allow the store to leave the customer a message about the status of a delayed order. Whether they do so or not is mostly a function of the manager’s ability to be on top of every step in the shipping process.

    Where this is no “event” to act upon it takes a more remarkable retailer to be aware of the delay and the need post an update. I can also see that this kind of task rarely generates any feedback and can easily be skipped on the assumption that no-one notices.

    This is a pretty good measure of whether a retailer is going the extra yard in providing great customer support. Nice post!

  2. Robert Dwyer
    November 12th, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    Thanks for sharing your point of view Ian. I hope this is a useful anecdote for folks with e-commerce sites.

    As I was writing this I was thinking of my long-term satisfaction with the retailer, but there has been a short-term cost too. I’m highly unlikely to place a second order from the same retailer until the first order has cleared – even if a second compelling offer comes along.

    It’s like hiring a contractor or giving an employee as assignment: You don’t give them a second until they’ve completed the first. In this context retailers who fulfill orders quickly are ready to accept more business.