The Offline Satisfaction of The Online Experience

On from Analytics Culture, Web Analytics

Allow me today to base this post on some personal experience. My wife is currently working very hard on launching a new site in April. She had been complaining about back and neck pain, and it was obvious her little wooden chair caused all that. You can imagine that buying her a good office chair (and show support) came right up on my gift list last Christmas.

I knew I wanted to buy her an Aeron by Herman Miller. I had tried it and found it incredibly comfortable, with a decent design (no, I am not getting paid for mentioning the brand. It is actually an important element of the story). I searched online, and finally found the web site of a furniture store here in Canada (you’ll excuse me for encouraging local businesses as much as possible).

The process in itself was, seemed to at the time, quite seamless. I noticed how important those trust logos (Better Business Bureau, Geotrust, Hacker Safe, etc.) were after all when one doesn’t know a business. That played a role, together with the price, which was good (that IS an expensive chair).

I went through the motion of buying one, with all my surfing and information gathering habits kicking in. Although I have been doing and consulting on Web marketing for 12 years, I am a dumb user. It’s got to be clear and obvious, and easy to go through. Which also means I read quickly. So when I saw:

adapts naturally and adjusts precisely to fit people of all sizes

I took it at face value. But I’ll get back to that a little later.

Now, the online process went well, the site did its job (it’s a small company’s site, and they’re still struggling to make things run smoothly, so I won’t mention them). I get the confirmation emails, the order verification, etc.

And then an email telling me, a few days later, that the chair would not make it for Christmas… That was OK, I had the idea of putting a picture of it in a box, under the tree, so the element of surprise would still play.

Then a few more days later, a mail saying that the chair would be delivered within 4–6 weeks… Now, that put us at the end of January. And it triggered a long series of email exchanges and phone calls. Three different people at the retailer got involved in sending me messages and replies. I phoned, and I told them to see with Herman Miller if the chair could be shipped directly, so to save time and greenhouse gases. They said OK.

The chair got finally here on January 16th. And the day after, another one came at the door…

I spare you the details of handling the ship back. The store kindly took back the second chair at their expense. I was on a business trip when the chairs got home, so I got to examine the one we kept only days later.

It doesn’t have adjustable arm rests… At $800, the chair does not have one very basic functionality of any office chair (as mine for example, at $185), which is to have adjustable arm rests (now you see why I quoted from the site)! If you can’t rest your arms correctly on them, you will develop shoulder and neck pain. It defies the whole purpose.

True, I bought the basic model, but I should have been warned that, hey, at that price, SHE’d better fit the chair!

So, am I satisfied from all that experience? You guessed right: no. Will I buy anything again from that site? I don’t see why I should. We’re stuck with the product now. Why don’t I ship it back? Gosh! Because it’s complicated, now that we don’t have the box! Anyway, that’s not the point.

How often do you measure the WHOLE process of your online business? How often do you inquire about after-sale satisfaction, and calculate your rates?

As consumers, let’s think about it. How often do we get any verification of how satisfied we are with the purchased products or services? Not often, do we.

You have got to measure that too, if you do anything that has an offline component, especially when that part comes after the online transaction.

Feeling helpless does not figure on the list of happy emotions. It certainly does not contribute to making anyone repeat the experience.

Tags: , consumer+satisfaction, online+experience+satisfaction

2 responses to “The Offline Satisfaction of The Online Experience

  1. I recently bought an Aeron chair myself but had the exact opposite shopping experience. I would recommend Their product specialists were very knowledgable and friendly and they shipped the chair for free. They were much clearer and more honest than the sales people you described with your experience. I’ll definitely use them again the next time I have to make a purchase for my home office.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your comment. Good for then. In fact, I absolutely did NOT want to imply that the people I bought the chair from were dishonest. There was a lot of confusion in the whole process; they’re not themselves happy about what happened.

    My point was that the very final steps of the online transaction, which often occur offline, should also be monitored/measured with the same attention as the online experience itself, especially when what happens offline can have such dramatic impact on future online behaviour.

    Thanks for your input.

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