The Cost of Losing Business

What happens when you make things too automatic for your customers, and an annoying error occurs? Answer: You could lose the sale.

In the last few months I’ve been reading some great blogs, and decided to try one of the products I saw. There was a product that was touted as something that would help me see success as a freelance writer. In what is an understandable sales technique, it was offered at a special rate until the end of 2009.

In mid-December, I decided to allocate the required investment (~$87) and clicked on the link to purchase.

The only option for purchasing this product was to use PayPal, a normally reliable service where I have had an active account for about eight years.

For some reason, PayPal decided to decline me this transaction. Per PayPal’s policy they “don’t care”. Actually, that’s a mis-quote. Their site says something to the effect that if they denied an individual transaction, it was in your best interest to insure people aren’t mis-using your account and they don’t have a method for overruling this on any specific transaction. It’s something they’re proud of. I sent a note anyway asking for assistance. No reply.

Okay. PayPal is PayPal. I’m stuck there, but I still wanted the product. I clicked on the “contact” button in the corner, and sent a note asking, essentially, “may I please buy your product?” I said something about requesting a different form of payment.

My logic was that PayPal might be willing to help eventually, but the seller would want to figure something out right now.

Of course, if that had happened, this would be a review of the product, not a review of not being able to buy the product, right?

I did receive a follow-up e-mail the next day, and was told “they would look into it”. That was, temporarily, comforting. However, the lack of follow through into mid-January is disheartening, to say the least. And of course, now a look on that site shows the product “is temporarily off the market.” So if I wanted to go out of my way and create a new PayPal account with a different credit card, I’m still out of luck.

From the business point of view, what do you think goes through your customer’s mind when something like this happens? Here are some of the thoughts, temporary and permanent, that I have had in the last month:

Do I still want this product?(no one referred me, so in my mind I was taking a risk anyway)
Do they even care if I want this product?
Will they even miss the lost sale?
What if I had been successful and bought the product, would this be how they would support any future issues?
Are there comparable products out there?
(and yes, I am now looking)
How do I handle my disappointment? (clearly I’m blogging it)
Is all of this even worth my time?(hmmm…only for the single blog value)

As I prepare to deploy my own products on-line, here are some lessons this experience has taught me (and yes, I’ve heard many of these before):

1. Decide on a response standard and stick with it. (i.e. one business day)
– No one wanting to send you money should be made to wait more than 72 hours to be allowed to do it.
– Same standard for any reasonable customer requests, even if it’s an “I’ll find out” answer to get time to research a better answer.
2. If you say “I’ll get back to you” to your customer, do it. Especially if you take time to post multiple blog entries in the same time period.
3. Plan for back-up payment options, in case your primary doesn’t work. If your audience is a blog/web audience, they’re probably used to on-line transactions. That doesn’t mean they should have accounts at every payment site out there. That said, PayPal is well known and (usually) reliable.
4. If you leave a product page up with a “temporarily off the market” note, maybe mention why or when it will be back.
5. If you decide to blow a customer off, you might want to make sure she/he doesn’t have a blog!!!

Final note:  This post is based on what is probably a blip in their process. With this site’s reputation, I doubt this happens to many people. My idea here was not to rip them, but to show what can happen when the blips go uncorrected. Maybe their $87 loss will be my gain down the road…

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