Who Are You, Really?

Who Are You, Really?

The Dangers of Outsourcing Customer Ordering

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.

Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com

shutterstock_78611479In order to be compatible with Apple’s new operating system, Sierra, I needed to upgrade software from another well know company. From this company’s website, I ordered the upgrade and began the check-out process. I quickly encountered the error “Invalid email address”. “How could that be?”, I wondered. “After all, I just logged in with that same email.”

For assistance, I clicked on the company’s e-mail support link on their website. Little did I know that I wasn’t communicating with the software company anymore but with one of their resellers.

Stealth Reseller:

Thank you for contacting the online store.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and we appreciate your feedback regarding your experience so we can continuously improve that area on our system.

Regarding your email address and password, when entering this information, please check to be sure there are no blank spaces after the order number or password, or you may have difficulty logging in. [And yes, I know that they have to ask, but my computer is also plugged in].

Please try placing the order once more. If you encounter the same issue, please reply with any error message received. Also include the order number found in the shopping cart before you click the “Proceed to Checkout” button.

We recommend when placing an order that you enter your billing information exactly as it appears on your credit card billing statement. If your middle initial appears on your credit card, please include it.

The error you received could be the result of a missing or corrupt online store cookie. A cookie is a small file written to your hard drive that allows you to access our secure server for processing your credit card transaction. For information on setting your browser to accept cookies, please visit: http://www.google.com/cookies.html. Signed by MG [software company name].

Me:

My information is correct and I have cleared out all of my cookies. Please see the attached screenshot, because I am receiving the same error message as before.

Stealth Reseller:

Thank you for contacting the Software Company. Please accept our deepest apologies for the inconvenience that this caused you. We have checked the status of your order number XXXXXX and show that it was never completed. [No kidding. I can’t complete it if I can’t log on!]

Also, we are unable to duplicate the issue you have described. Please try placing the order once more. If you encounter the same issue, please reply with any error message received. Also include the order number in the shopping cart before you click the “Proceed to Checkout” button. [Are you not reading my message? I can’t get to the “Proceed to Checkout” screen!].

We recommend when placing an order that you enter your billing information exactly as it appears on your credit card billing statement. If your middle initial appears on your credit card, please include it. The error you received could be the result of a missing or corrupt online store cookie. A cookie is a small file written to your hard drive that allows you to access our secure server for processing your credit card transaction. For information on setting your browser to accept cookies, please visit: http://www.google.com/cookies.html If you need Customer Service assistance on placing the order, please call 1-888-XXX-XXXX to speak to one of our representatives. We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding. Sincerely, JS.

It was obvious that communicating via e-mail was not only frustrating; it was fruitless. I called the customer service number in their email. Again, I was unaware with whom I was speaking. I thought it was the software company.

Me:

I’m trying to place an order. I’ve logged into your system. When I hit the “Proceed to Check Out button”, I receive an invalid email error address. I don’t understand why because I just used the same email address to log in and place the upgrade in my shopping cart.

Stealth Reseller:

That email won’t work. You need a separate log in. We are a direct reseller for the software company. Look at the message (in 6 point font) at the bottom of the web page. We are Stealth Reseller, not the Software Company. What was the price of the upgrade you are trying to order?

Me:

$150

Stealth Reseller:

I don’t show an upgrade for that price. You must be on a fraudulent site. You know, you can’t trust everything on the internet. [I have heard rumors of that].

Me:

May I speak to your supervisor?

Stealth Reseller:

This is Jan. I understand that you are trying to upgrade for $99, and we don’t offer that price.

Me:

I’m trying to place an upgrade order for $150. I’ve logged into your system. When I hit the “Proceed to Check Out button”, I receive an invalid email error address. I don’t understand why because I just used the same email address to log in and place the upgrade in my shopping cart.

Your representative just told me that I was receiving information from a fraudulent website when I added the upgrade directly from software company’s website.

Stealth Reseller:

Ok. I’ve located the price. You are correct [At last!]. Would you like to order the DVD or download?

Me:

Download. How long can I access the download in case that I need to reload it?

Stealth Reseller:

5 days. You can also buy an extended download service for a period of 30 days.

Me:

Ok, then I will take the hard copy.

Stealth Reseller:

Ok. There is $10 shipping charge.

Me:

After everything I’ve gone through, you are not willing to waive the shipping costs? I’m not comfortable ordering from you. What is the number of the software company?

Stealth Reseller:

I can give you their number. But, I doubt if they will take your call.

Me:

Click


I called the software company directly, wondering if the number on the website is really their’s. Surprisingly, I talked to someone within a few minutes and told them about my experience with their reseller. The real customer service agent politely apologized and offered me a $99 purchase price for the full software; not just the upgrade. In the end, the software company resolved my issue, and I finally downloaded my new software.

picture1Unfortunately, I’ve had similar experiences with outsourced ”partners”, and I’m sure that you have too. There are only two reasons that should justify a company’s decision to outsource their customer ordering process:

  1. They are certain that their customers will receive better service from their outsourcer than from their own internal staff while providing this superior results at a lower cost.
  2. Their business has significant seasonality, so that they need to convert fixed costs to variable costs.

Before you make a flawed outsourcing decision, seriously consider these risks and how you will mitigate them:

  1. Lack of direct oversight  With an in-house order processing team, it’s easy to go down the hall and monitor interactions with customers. If you can’t see your outsourced partner, how will you monitor quality? When the cat’s away, the rats do bad things.
  1. Cost of Losing customers forever  Would a customer who is less curious or persistent than me have found the software company’s real number and called them? I doubt it. How many sales do you risk losing because of poor or deceptive service? What is your cost to replace that customer?
  1. Loss of control over key processes  You may become dependent on your outsourced partner. If you decide to bring outsourced functions back in-house, will you have the talent to do so? If not, how much will it cost if you to (re)create it?
  1. Preference for a personal touch  A study by Accenture revealed that, “Even in the “digital age,” human interaction remains a vital component of customer satisfaction. Eighty-three percent of US consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels. Furthermore, 52 percent of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service. In the United States, the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.
  1. Losing touch with your customers  How will you keep updated on your customer’s complaints, requests, or ideas?
  1. Damage to your brand  When customer support is outsourced, it is less likely that customers will receive a consistent quality of service or be treated the way that you expect them to be treated. This can anger customers and damage your brand. How many more sales will you need to make to offset lost orders, bad experiences, and resulting mistrust of current and potential customers?
  1. Cyber-Security Risks  Your outsourced partner will have access to confidential data including credit card numbers and sales information. You must verify that your partner not only screens and bonds their employees, but that they also have adequate cyber-security protocols in place.
  1. Lack of Interface with Your Other Systems  How will customer order information be accurately and efficiently captured into your systems such as CRM or order fulfillment?

Clearly, there are serious risks associated with trusting your customer order services to a third party. Based upon my recent experience, the gamble taken by this company was definitely not worth it. What do you think?

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