Website Features Are a Matter of Respect for the Individual

Written October 17th, 2010 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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Every feature that goes into our b2b2dot0 B2B ecommerce service is a multi-party negotiation.  On the one hand, we consider the voices of our existing clients, active prospects and market forces.  On the other hand, we juggle development, implementation services, ongoing support operations, and the realities of our financial and human resource constraints and goals.  But above all, we constantly remind ourselves that the greatest weight always goes to our client’s customers, for they are the ultimate users of our service.


We spend a lot of time looking at the world from the ultimate user’s perspective, which is why I’m so offended when I see flagrant transgressions of “empathetic design”.  It’s as if the authors of those offending features forgot to consider their most important audience…ME!  Today I’ll share my three latest battles with websites that show no respect for me or my time.

Case #1 – Scheduling snafus – My dentist’s office recently sent me an email reminder for an upcoming semi-annual cleaning appointment.  Their email had two obvious objectives: 1) to confirm the appointment  and, 2) to remind me that there were penalties for canceling the appointment after a certain time.  What their email campaign hadn’t anticipated was that in the six months since I initially set that appointment, a more pressing matter could have injected itself into my life and that I would need to reschedule. There was no way to do that from the website!

What?

I replied to their email notice not only letting them know that I needed to reschedule, but gave them some free website design advice as well :-).  I’m just waiting for them to charge me for not showing up because my email went into some spam folder!

Case #2 – Password penalties– Budget.com doesn’t allow you to retrieve or reset your password online.  They force you to call up a customer service agent.

What?

What makes matters worse, if that iswhen or if their website is down, they don’t prevent you from attempting to login.  They continue to count each of your unsuccessful login attempts (even though your password may have been correct), against the three free ones that they give you, before they lock you out for an hour.

What?  Are you kidding me?

I know this to be true because I got locked out this past week and the customer service agent, that I didn’t want to speak with but had to, told me so. I could just see her head dismissively shaking at her IT colleagues who have sentenced her to field a mountain of low value calls every day.

And while we’re at it, what’s up with that one hour lockout rule?  I get the fact that it could dissuade those pesky robots from trying their best to get into my account.  But I’m not a robot!  I’m someone who seems to have forgotten their password.  So with no way to get a hint or reset it on the website, you send me to my room for a “time out” hour until I calm down enough to try and remember it again??? Puhlease.

Case #3 – Translation troubles–  Last week I had the opportunity to benchmark our b2b2dot0 service against a leading German Distributor of outdoor equipment’s European Dealer website.  Ignoring the fact that they apparently think that none of their customers would ever need to contact them after order placement (we see anywhere from 1-3 post order entry transactions in our world), they did boast of multilingual support.  Since English wasn’t one of their supported languages, with the help of my colleagues, I explored their French version…which was mostly in French.  Help text was in the website’s native German and when I followed links to product catalogs I ended up in German only catalogs.

What?

That’s not what “multilingual” means!  Multilingual doesn’t mean I HAVE TO BE multilingual.  It means that your website is multilingual.  That’s being really disrespectful to your non-German speaking customers!

I was taught by my first employer, IBM, way back in 1980, that a fundamental belief of the business was to “Respect the Individual”.   Maybe that’s why I get so worked up when I trip over these issues.  In the race to satisfy their self-serving corporate objectives, website owners end up disrespecting the very people that can ultimately make them successful.

In the end, I think our industry could benefit greatly from a little less technical wizardry and a little more respect for the individual.

Sam