Look at Things From a Customer’s Perspective

    December 14, 2007

As an internet retailer, I have had to learn the hard way that our customers do not necessarily see our sites the way we see them. In fact, when we conduct usability studies, I am often shocked to find that what is very obvious to me escapes them completely.

Does that make them stupid? Of course not. Their perspective is just different. In their eyes, the retailer is the one that is stupid.

This hit home to me this week in a confrontation I had with Bank of America. I had one of those 0% teaser rates and set up the account online to deduct the minimum each month. The day the teaser rate expired, I paid off the account in full and closed the account.

The next month, they took money out of my checking account to pay the account even though it had no balance and was closed. I called them and asked them why. They told me I had to go in online and turn off the autopayment even though the account was closed. I told them that was a stupid policy, but logged in and cancelled (I thought) the auto-payment.

Next month, they took money from my checking account again. I called and asked why. They told me that I did not really cancel the auto-payment but just cancelled one month of the auto-payment. I asked them to just stop the payments from their end and they said that they could not–only I had the ability to do that. I told them how stupid that was, but spent a few minutes searching my online account for a way to turn off auto-payments for good.

As hard as I tried, I could not find a place to stop auto-payments for good. I told them that, and they told me it was my fault (even though they were unable to tell me how to do it over the phone). Finally, they said they would take care of it on their end.

That brings us to this week. I noticed again that they hit my checking account two more times during the past two months. I called and asked why (I may have again mentioned how stupid I thought Bank of America is). Again, they told me that they were unable to stop auto-payments on their end–only I could do that online. I logged in again, and try as hard as I could, I found no way to stop auto-payments. After the conversation took a rude turn, she finally went and found someone to turn off auto-payments for the account.

My guess is that I will see another debit on my checking account next month. I may have to change bank accounts before this all over. Let me say to Bank of America–you are very stupid. Your online account functionality is stupid, and your customer service is ridiculous.

But, I can’t be too upset. Thanks Bank of America for lending me so much money with no interest for a year. And if you send me another offer for large amounts of money at no interest, I will be glad to take you up on it again.

That brings me back to internet retail. Don’t fall to the Bank of America level of stupidity. Here are some things that online retailers simply have to do.

1) Find a way to design from a customer perspective. That means you cannot rely on designers to design something that looks good. You have to run usability tests or surveys or something else to collect data that helps you design for your customers instead of yourself.

2) Make sure your customer service understands the functionality of the site. Give classes, let them place test orders, etc. Also, drill into their heads that it is not the customers’ problem if they find your site hard to use–it is your problem. If an average customer struggles with your site, they are not the ones that are stupid!