I had been a regular customer at rediff.com, mostly buying books from them.
One evening about four years ago, I couldn't log into the site. But I wanted a book, so I logged onto Fabmall.com (now indiaplaza.in) and bought it there.
In years that followed, I never went back to rediff, because Fabmall was equally easy to use. I joined the Fabmall book club (nice discounts) and did all my shopping there.
That was till last Sunday, when at 6 pm I tried Indiaplaza, and their server was down. I typed rediff.com in the address bar, loss of discount not withstanding.
This time Rediff didn't ask if I was registered with them, only for an email ID. They accepted the payment by credit card, without fuss and sent a mail, creating an account in the process.
My book was delivered yesterday.
I should have been happy with the whole experience, except that I also received a mail shortly before the book was delivered:
You should receive your order between 29 Jun, 2007 and 03 Jul, 2007.
The mail provided a tracking number and a link, but this number was declared invalid at the Courier's site!
Hmm. This makes me want to declare the rules of business for net merchants who expect me to shop with them:
- Ensure no glitch. 99% uptime is not good enough.
Know what the best in the business can achieve and go for it. If there's a break down, say so on the main page, give an estimate of when you would be back and ask the customer to leave their email address, so you can get back.
- Eight days in advance isn't customer delight.
It shows that your information is unreliable. That the tracking number fails even as the package is being delivered only reinforces this impression.
- Promising eight days later is wrong.
Your business has an expected response time that your competitor sets and your customer knows. Promising less, even if you can meet this expectation isn't the best strategy.