Why does physical service lag behind online service?

Online service that precedes
physical service seems to be always better. OK Amazon.com is an exception which
is able to physically deliver to a consumers' delight.  There are numerous
examples of this "sure to disappoint the consumer" situation.

A recent example from a top 
hotel that  sends you an email asking you to check-in online and just pick
up the key and save the wait at check-in. In small print, the email tells you
that another email will come in once the room is ready.. and we are
talking about the regular check in time. Several different folks who had
actually checked in on-line find themselves waiting because the room is not
ready. The reception desk reads the email and offers rather unhelpfully that a
"second" email is the confirmation that you have your room. 

And the experience repeats in all
those situations where you do some stuff online but have to receive the actual
service physically. Consider banking online and going to the bank to complete
an infrequent activity like loan documents or trying to change your seat or
fight in an airport. Why does this happen so often? Here are some thoughts:

  • Most organizations do not see the importance of giving
    top priority and focus on delivery like Amazon.com.  So even if you
    order only occasionally Amazon does better than what it promises at the
    ordering stage. The customer is not expected to do anything more than
    ordering and paying
    . No wonder Amazon is among America's most loved
  • In contrast, most organizations expect
    customers to do work beyond ordering and paying online
    . Sounds unfair
    but most organizations don't seem to realize this. This additional work
    includes in the hotel example (a) check in online (b) stay away from the
    registration desk because the second email has not arrived confirming a
    ready room  and all this after the posted check in time. 
  • In most repeated off-line /on-line transactions the
    customer gets experience and does not feel as bad. Think of banking online
    and going in to deposit a check. You know the "routine" and
    things don't appear difficult.
  • Infrequent transactions are where the customer has no
    experience in dealing with the delivery process of the organization. The service
    provider, when untrained makes things worse by ridiculing or getting
    annoyed with customers who are just trying to work out how the delivery of
    service will happen.

So if your organization has moved
any part of your processes online it's really useful to check how your
customers, particularly the infrequent ones are coping. Else all that effort,
money and hopes on technology, mobile phone app etc. is not succeeding in that
ultimate goal: to keep your customer happy. Contact StratoServe.

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