One of the primary functions of an ecommerce company is to take orders over the phone. These orders are placed by people who are too chickenshit and/or stupid and/or obstinate to do it themselves over the internet.
A common theme among these people is that they don’t like to tell you their email address. As if that could somehow be used against them in some terrible way or as if just a single extra piece of spam would be the tipping point to ruining their lives.
So these folks call up on the telephone to place their orders. And thus begins what I like to call a dance that leads to the creation of order records that are rife with errors. Did you say F or S? M or N? Another commonality these people have is that they like to speak quickly and don’t like repeating themselves. One thing is certain: By the time we’re done transcribing what was said there are errors.
Then we ask, “Can I have your email address? That is where we’ll send the order confirmation and the tracking number so you can track your own shipment.”
“What do you want that for?” the customer will ask warily.
Sigh. We’ve been down this road a million times. “I just explained all that.”
“Will you spam me? Will you sell it?”
“No,” I say for the 27th million time in my life. “We only send you emails pertaining to your order. We never sell, give away or lease email addresses to anyone. Ever.” The truth is we’re too horribly inept, unorganized and understaffed to do anything proactive like work our email lists. So by default your email is very safe with us whether you trust that or not.
“Well, you can’t have it! Won’t tells you, we will. Never!”
Fine. Whatever. Shut the hell up, okay?
The email enables, among other things, the order confirmation. This is a little bit of info, sent to the email address, that confirms things like what’s in the order, the amount charged, and where the order will be shipped.
Not once in my illustrious 10-year ecommerce career has a customer ever received this order confirmation, carefully checked it, then called in to report an error. At least not before the order has shipped. They’re real good about doing so the next day once it’s too late. “Wowie! You guys sure ship purdy fast.”
The order confirmation email is a vital part of the process to find, intercept and fix costly errors before an order has shipped. Before we ship fixes are free. After we ship fixes are expensive.
Then, these same people who claimed not to have an email address will call us every day for an update on their stuff. “Where’s my order now?” they’ll demand to know.
“If you provide your email address I could send the tracking information along and you could track it real-time all by yourself…” I helpfully suggest.
“No. We do not wants that! Just tell us where our precious is located now. Track it for us, you will. Yesssssssss!”
Nothing says job satisfaction like extra phone calls from idiots made possible through customer paranoia. All over their oh-so-sacred email address, of all things!
What gets me is that when you ask for the credit card information, they have absolutely no problem with that. They’ll hand it over like it’s a red-hot potato. They’ve been well trained to be efficient customers in the consumption machine. They know we need the number itself, the name on the card, the expiration date, the billing address, and the “security code” on the back. Har.
And they’ll willingly line up to hand over this information to a complete stranger on the phone. Yeah, like that’s any safer than transmitting the information across the internet.
A lot of customers call in out of fear of putting their credit card information into the computer and/or the internet. So they give it to us over the phone. We then promptly do two things that would probably fry their bacon. First, we write it down on a piece of paper. (Everything required to complete a credit card transaction on one handy document. Isn’t that nice? Which would never have happened if they just ordered themselves.) And the second thing: We then punch all of that credit card information right into that same damn computer and/or internet.
Ha ha! And they thought they were being safe. Not only did we just do the one thing they had hoped to avoid, but it passed through an extra human along the way. Talk about safety!
So here’s to you paranoid customers! Keep being magnificent.
I’m with you: I don’t understand why the CC# is ok and not the email.
I never do phone orders because my last name is so freaking long! And it’s full of those tricky letters: P as in Paul, N as in Nancy, F is in Frank, B is in Burp.
People have been trained to fork over the credit card as a matter of routine. Think about how many times you physically hand over the card to a complete stranger who then takes the card out of sight. The gas station, the restaurant, etc. Then we call up a store on the internet and gladly give the person on the other end everything they’d ever need to fraudulently use our credit card.
The credit card system for paying for things isn’t as magic as everyone seems to think it is. At some point it usually comes down to a point where the information passes through a low-paid employee who is a complete stranger to us. Now that is trust!
That’s where POS terminals can help. The customer swipes the card in a machine and the employee never gets to handle it. Or, like at the KFC drive thru the other night, I handed over my card and it never left my sight while the employee handled it. That’s a nice consideration.
Payment services like PayPal and Google Checkout also help. They permit customers to pay for things without giving their credit card information to every merchant who may have varying security standards. After working for 10 years in the ecommerce industry I can tell you I’ve never seen a company I work for actually meet “PCI Compliance” standards. They do things like keep credit card information for thousands of customers in their online database, unencrypted, and even store the “security code” in there, too. If their online database ever gets hacked the entire set of data will be easily compromised. (This information gets stored the same way regardless of if the customer orders online or by phone.)
Regarding phone orders: It is rare I see one that isn’t chock full of errors. It is by far the most inefficient and inaccurate way to order.