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.
May I suggest that next time you think about airport security that you think about H&R Block instead of TSA?
Yes, it’s true that H&R Block can do so much more than screw up your electronic filings and not have the ability to provide your tax returns from previous years when they handled your filings. They can and should do so much more!
I had to go through H&R Block security procedures yesterday at our local office, and I can tell you – these people are good!
Here’s the story.
My new boss needed some documents picked up from H&R Block. Since I live all the way on the other side of town and about 200 yards from the H&R Block office, he asked if I could pick them up on my way to work. I said, “Sure. No problem.”
I walked into the office and said, “I’m here to pick up some documents for XYZ Corp, Acme Division, Widget R&D Department of the Enterprise Zone Chamber of Commerce Interface Committee.” Or something to that effect.
“Oh yes,” the woman said. “We have those ready to go. May I ask your name?”
“I hope you understand, Tom. I’m going to have to call and confirm you are authorized to pick these up.”
“Do you have your office’s phone number?”
Whiskey tango foxtrot!
As often happens in life, I couldn’t help myself. “Eh? Are you serious? You need to vet me. I can grok that. But what possible value is it to you if I provide the frickin’ phone number? What does that prove?”
The point eluded her. “Well, I have to ask.”
So I gave the mental midget the phone number. She called and the person on the other end of the line, apparently trustworthy as far as she knew, told her I was copacetic. Whatever that fucking proves.
“Now I need your full name.”
“Tom B. Taker.” At this point I was feeling crotchety and incredulous.
“And now I’ll need to see some ID.”
You mean this fake ID, I thought to myself. If I was dirty so far she hadn’t done jack shit to verify anything about me. I showed her my ACLU card.
And, this is where I was really floored with the sheer professionalism of H&R Block procedures. She grabbed a blank sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper and wrote it. “Tom B. Taker has been authorized to pick up documents for XYZ Corp, Acme Division, Widget R&D Department of the Enterprise Zone Chamber of Commerce Interface Committee. Documents have been released as of this date.”
She pushed her handwritten scrawl in my face. “I’ll just need your John Hancock right here.”
No way, lady! That would be forgery! 🙂
I signed her official looking form.
Finally, she handed over the documents while giving me one last lingering once over with her shifty eyes. Mwuahahahaha! At last! The documents were mine!
Truly, I vote think we should get H&R Block in charge of airport security ASAP. What could possibly go wrong?