Posts in Customer Experience

Grand Central needs to improve its usability

I have to book trains online quite often, and am constantly frustrated by the poor user experience offered by some rail operator's websites.

I've criticised National Express for usability problems before, but GrandCentral, which operates train services along the same East Coast mainline between London and the North East, takes the biscuit for poor customer experience. 

Grand Central homepage

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Right to reply: Webloyalty / ShopperDiscounts

Webloyalty / Shopper Discounts right to reply; image thanks to altemark via FlickrEarlier this week on this blog Graham Charlton discussed whether or not retailers should promote third party shopper discount schemes at the end of the checkout process. 

The way this usually works is that you buy something, and after having your order confirmed are invited to accept a ‘£10 off your next purchase’ or similar. The schemes are operated not by the retailers, but by a partner.

Graham bought some train tickets via TheTrainline.com and stumbled across one of these offers at the end of the checkout. He found it confusing, and he’s not alone… many consumers have also complained (‘I was duped’, ‘I’m another victim’, etc).

Naturally the discount scheme operator, Webloyalty, is not thrilled with our coverage, and marketing director Gill Hynes has written in to complain. 

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Reevoo improves its iPhone site

I looked at price comparison websites on mobile yesterday, and found many of these sites were not up to scratch,  have not released versions for smartphones, or in many cases have not even developed mobile sites.

Of the five mobile shopping comparison sites I looked at, Reevoo's was one of the best, and has now improved its mobile offering by adding pricing information from retailers. 

Reevoo iPhone site

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MSN gets into celebrity news with Wonderwall

Microsoft's track record online isn't so great. Despite spending billions on its MSN unit over the years, Microsoft is still struggling to become a true 'destination' for internet surfers. That's not entirely surprising given the fact that, at its core, Microsoft has always been better 'technology' company than anything else.

So Microsoft turned to Hollywood's BermanBraun Interactive to build a new content site in one of the most popular, and competitive, content verticals: celebrity news.

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Zappos introduces visual browsing feature

I've just noticed (via Twitter) an excellent new feature on Zappos.com, which provides a different way to browse through the retailer's ranges of shoes, watches and handbags.

Called Explore Zappos, it allows users to browse through the site by looking at a large number of items at once, and seems especially well suited to products like shoes and other fashion items.

Explore Zappos visual search

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Should e-commerce sites be offering rewards schemes?

I've been booking some train tickets through thetrainline.com, and aside from the steep £2.50 charge for using a credit card, I was disappointed to find myself on a pop-up page offering me a cashback voucher and other rewards. 

The offer comes from a company called Webloyalty under the name of Shoppersdiscounts, which has come in for flak before from customers who feel they have been duped, so should thetrainline and other e-commerce sites risk their reputations by using such schemes?

Shopperdiscount offer on thetrainline

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91 of 100 online retailers flunk the customer service test

customer service

You'd think downtimes would be good times to make shoppers happy. Heck, even New York's toniest restaurents are getting downright obsequious with the customers they once very nearly snubbed.

Yet the e-tailing group's 11th annual Mystery Shopping Study, conducted in Q4 2008, found the overwhelming majority of online retailers are falling flat in nine critical areas of customer service.

To qualify as "top performing," 100 online retailers were ranked on specific benchmarking criteria. The survey eliminates sites that don't possess the following "must have" criteria, in order of importance:

1. Toll-free telephone number present

2. Keyword search

3. Four or fewer days to receive package

4. Adequately and correctly answer e-mail question within 24 hours; provide a specific answer

5. CSR product knowledge when calling toll-free number, 2.0 or higher on a scale of 3.0

6. Six or fewer clicks to checkout

7. Email shipping confirmation sent

8. Email order confirmation sent with order number included

9. Real time inventory in shopping cart or product page

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Are mobile shopping comparison sites any good?

Mobile shoppingFor mobile internet users shopping offline, mobile price comparison sites should provide a useful service, allowing shoppers to look up reviews and see what kind of value they are getting.

Mobile users are using their phones to access product reviews and compare prices when shopping instore, so how well do price comparison sites cater for this consumer behaviour?

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Site review: Spotify

Swedish startup Spotify launched its online music streaming service in public beta a few months ago, looking to compete with established music sites like Last.fm.

Offering either subscription or ad supported version of its service, Spotify offers the artist and related tracks radio that is a feature of Last.fm, but has also provided a good range of tracks that can be listened to on-demand.

Spotify

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23 ways Apple can improve my next iPhone

Apple iPhone 3G pic by Óscarq via Flickr)I purchased two things last year that have improved my world considerably. 

The first purchase was the Roland Juno, a synthesiser that is pound for pound the best value for money of anything I’ve ever bought. It is tremendous fun and all manner of synthy noises and weird Devo-esque sounds. It even has a cowbell. I can’t really play it, but I have a lot of fun trying.

The second thing was the delightful Apple iPhone. As you probably know, it is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. For anybody who runs websites for a living it is a must-have. I’ve been sleeping more soundly since I bought it...

However, as with most things, there is scope for improvement

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Mobile site review: FT.com

FT.com has been giving its mobile site a makeover, launching a new version which matches the pink look of the website, and has also been optimised for smartphone users.

I looked at a few mobile newspaper sites recently, and haven't been all that impressed so far, especially with those from UK publishers, so how well does FT.com translate to mobile?

m.FT.com

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Amazon bows SMS shopping

262966 spells A-M-A-Z-O-N on your dialpad. It's the shortcode for TextBuyIt, the online retailer's new SMS shopping system.

Just type what you want - iPod Nano, for example, text it to that number and numbered search results appear on your handheld device's screen. Respond with the number of the item you want, respond to the prompt for your email address and postal code, and you'll get a call from Amazon to complete your purchase.

It's all so instantaneous, except for the waiting for it to arrive in the mail part.

Amazon TextbuyIt

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