4.17.2012

The User Experience Disconnect

This post is about marketing strategy and the user experience, not about mobile barcodes.

Last week, I was on a mission to have the brakes on my car replaced. Here is how the story unfolds.

I knew Saturday would be the day to bring the car to a local service station, wait an hour or two, and have the brakes replaced, so on Wednesday, I started the process of checking on-line to see which companies in the local area were offering service and/or parts discounts. While conducting my research, I found Firestone. They were offering a discount, as well as a mail-in rebate, so after some quick comparisons, I decided to bring my business to them.

On Firestone's website there is a scheduler function where a customer can select the day, time and location that they would like to bring their car in to have it serviced, how convenient. No phone call or email necessary. So I made my two selections (my first time preference and my second time preference on Saturday) and put the thought of having to get the car repaired out of my mind.

By Friday afternoon, I had not received an email or phone call from Firestone confirming the time of my service appointment on Saturday, so I called the local service station. When I mentioned to the representative that I scheduled a time (Saturday at 7:15AM) on-line, he said that they did not get their update from the website yet (it was already late Friday afternoon mind you) and, in actuality, it is always better to schedule a service appointment directly with the local service station anyway. What? Give that to me again?

In essence, what the representative told me was that the time I spent filling out the appointment scheduler on their corporate website was a big old waste of time. Thank you. What a great way to be introduced to a company whose products and services I have never used before. If it weren't for the service discount and mail-in rebate I question as to whether or not I would have brought my business elsewhere.

So, why the customer experience disconnect? Why wouldn't the local service station have gotten my appointment selection as soon as it was entered on their website? Why should there have been any delay? If it's all a matter of timing appointments and having people show up at the right time, etc. wouldn't this be a critical step in the process? Also, why no confirmation email or phone call from the company a day or two ahead of time?

It's sad to think, and I hope I am not jumping to the wrong conclusion, but it almost seems as though the on-line scheduler is merely for show. Yes, the service station took my car at about 8:00AM, the revised appointment time that I made when I called the local station directly, but the user/customer experience disconnect should not have happened in the first place.

Long story short, the car was fixed and I was on my way. In the future, will I refer people to Firestone? Maybe. Will I go back there myself? Maybe. Not the type of answers I would assume the company's CMO would want to hear, but then why no email or phone confirmation or the forwarding of my service appointment to the local station in a time appropriate manner? Now, if they even realize it, Firestone has to work that much harder for my business.

Bottom line...marketers, as well as developers and people in creative, should walk through the customer/user experience themselves and ask along the way, is this the best way to deliver the product/service/application experience and to showcase the brand? Are customers really benefiting or receiving value this way? If not then it should be back to the drawing board. Make sense?

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