Understanding how your online interactions with customers appear from a customer point of view is integral to operating a business online. As a business grows, it is easy to get lost in the minutia of the daily operations of your business, and to seek solutions that make the delivery of goods to your customers easier for you. Often what this means is that processes become more automated, and the businesses become less connected with the day-to-day interactions with paying customers. This can lead to snafus like the one I experienced the other day.
I purchased an e-book the other day in the interest of having the book immediately, so that I would have the book to read over the weekend. Internet shopping has become a major part of how we purchase small consumer goods in our household, and I can confidently say that I can generally navigate various payment gateways and e-commerce platforms without batting an eye. Sadly, this interaction did not work out quite the way I had hoped.
The book was available in multiple formats on Peachpit.com – I decided to order the book as a digital download. I have ordered e-books from various services including Amazon and Kobo in the past, and on the whole I would say I was pleased with how the purchase process went, and the ease of access to my downloaded materials. Not so with Peachpit. After being required to create an account to complete the transaction, I received and email confirmation from Peachpit Press, from a peachpit.com email address. So far so good. I processed my order using Paypal as my payment option, because of the buyers protection that they offer.
Now here’s where the transaction went off the rails. Upon being forwarded to Paypal, I was informed the I was about to process a transaction with Pearson Education, or pearsoned.com. ‘Huh’ I said to myself. ‘I guess PeachPit and Pearson are affiliated in some way. I better check that out to make sure I am not being scammed.’ I opened a new window in my browser, and went to the Peachpit website, and then to the about section. ‘Cool – it looks like Peachpit is owned by Pearson. Right-o. Carry on.’ So I continued with the transaction.
I received the payment confirmation from Paypal. And then I waited. I answered some emails. I ate some dinner. I emailed the email address on the payment confirmation for pearsoned.com, and got no response from it.
I searched my email for the title of the the book, and low and behold, after my order was processed by Pearsoned.com using Paypal, another email had arrived from Informit.com with the subject line: ‘Thank You For Your Order’, which I had not seen hidden among all of my other emails, as I was looking for an email from Peachpit.com or Pearsoned.com
This email included a download link; I thought ‘Geez, well that was annoying. Interactions on a single order from 3 different websites. Glad to be downloading it now though.’ And then I went to open the downloaded file. Now before I had purchased the downloaded the file, I had read the information under About Adobe DRM Books, which you can read here:
Requires the free Adobe® Reader® software.
Download after purchase.
Before downloading this DRM-encrypted Adobe® Reader® PDF file, be sure to:
Visit our eBook FAQ page for more information.
- Install Adobe Reader 6.x, 7.x, or the free Adobe Digital Editions software on your machine. Adobe Reader and Adobe Digital Editions software only works for Macintosh and Windows. The Linux and Unix versions of Adobe Reader do not have the plug-ins required to decrypt the eBook.
- Activate the DRM through the Adobe Reader software or at Adobe’s DRM Activator site.
- Follow the procedures as specified by Adobe.
I have Adobe Reader installed, so I thought ‘Great, I already have that sofware. And since the download is a PDF, I will be able to transfer it to my iPhone and use the PDF reader I have installed there.’ I was unpleasantly surprised by the following:
- The format of the download was not a PDF, but rather an ACSM file, which I hadn’t come across before.
- I could not open the file using Adobe Reader 7, in spite of what it said.
I went back to the Peachpit site, and using the Contact Us form, I submitted an inquiry about the file. I waited. I found them on Twitter. I tweeted them, and they asked me to direct message them with my email address so that they could help me.
It is not possible to direct message (DM) someone on twitter who is not following you; I let them know this and waited, and they did eventually follow me so that I could DM them my email address and get the matter resolved. All in all, it took 2 days to figure it all out, but what I did discover is:
- Adobe DRM files require Adobe Digital Editions, a completely separate program from Adobe Reader.
- Adobe DRM files are not currently usable on iPhones or any device other than your computer
- I should have bought the hard copy. From someone else.
I hope that Peachpit/Pearson/Informit/Whoever the heck they are clean up their customer experience for future users. They just lost a potential repeat customer, not because they didn’t respond, but because:
- The product did not work as expected. I expected a PDF that I could read with Adobe Reader, and I didn’t get that.
- Their messages to me were confused because they were coming from 3 different companies, rather than a single, recognizable brand.
- I was given the chance to become frustrated, and was not able to immediately find an answer to my problem, as the information they provided before the purchase was incorrect.
So how could this have been improved?
- The content on the product page about how the product works should have been accurate.
- The communications from the company I was purchasing from (Peachpit, originally,) could have been from URLs that I would recognize immediately as Peachpit.
- The Paypal account that I interacted with should have been a Peachpit account, not a Pearsoned.com account.
- The twitter manager could have been better trained to understand how twitter works.
Any aspect of your business that requires your customers to interact with automated systems should be tested by you on a regular basis to make sure that the systems are working as intended, and that the process flow is both logical and intuitive, otherwise no matter how hard you fight to win your customers, you could be loosing them one transaction at a time.