Why, Verizon Wireless Website? Why?

Willamette Week CoverHave you ever been to a Website, encountered something and couldn’t find it again? I believe this has happened to 99% of us.

Many people, especially those over the age of 40, may call customer service and proclaim: “Your Website isn’t working right.” The competent help desk employee on the other end first asks: “Is your computer plugged in? Is it turned on? Are you sure there isn’t a blackout?”

Once he or she determines the hardware is working correctly, then the nice customer service rep addresses the user competence. Often by the end of the call, the user feels very incompetent and highly frustrated.

On the other hand, if the user is under 40, most likely they just chalk it up to “It’s the Internet: A flawed creature that we deal with because there is no other way.” It’s similar to driving down a street that needs paving. It may be bumpy, we might lose a hubcap, but its the only way to get to work and get home.

As a person who has created many websites with development expenses as great as $250,000 (and as little as $1,200), I can tell you there are flaws that can be worked out, and there are flaws that cannot be worked out. The most likely reason a flaw cannot be worked out is due to a management issue. Either management is willing to pay what ever it takes to get it done right the first time, or they are not.

In the case of today’s launch of Willamette Week’s (WW) new site, www.wweek.com, I found many bugs. The trouble is not so much the bugs, they will get worked out. The problem is that WW announced the new site to Facebook users before working the bugs out. After spending 10 minutes trying to read an article and not being able to pull it up, I gave up. Good news for WW, later on that day the site worked just fine for me and it hasn’t tarnished their reputation.

www.verzonwireless.com is another site that launched a new product, but it didn’t tell its employees. As I was attempting to teach my Boomer dad how to list his top five friends and family, a pop up asked if I wanted to chat with a customer service rep. At the time I did not want to chat. But five minutes later I did and I couldn’t find a link anywhere on the site. Was I seeing things? Am I incompetent? Or did management test something new without telling anyone? I spent 20 minutes on the phone with 611 and even drove down to the VZW store to ask about this service. No one knew what I was talking about. I must have been seeing things, right?

The fundamental problem with this situation is that VZW has an in store philosophy: If someone comes to the store to complete something they could have done online, a VZW rep teaches the person how to do it — such as online bill pay or add your top five. Since I was attempting to do the work of a VZW rep by helping my dad, I had a set of expectations. 1) The site would work correctly and 2) I could easily access a customer service rep online. I guess one out of two isn’t bad.

Often we hear stories of a site launching an update and users becoming angry. Management has to make tough decisions when it comes to their users. Either the new update was part of a larger strategy or it wasn’t.

When Facebook launches a new services or interface, they stick to their guns regardless of negative responses. Twitter, they run the old and new simultaneously to give users the opportunity to adjust. But smaller sites, and businesses that operate both in the real world and online, often don’t think through the entire strategy. Unfortunately, not anticipating customer reaction can be problematic and lead to decreased satisfaction, decreased revenue, and increased expense.

The point is: Always make a strategy and think it through. Do not cut corners on your website, and don’t launch before the bugs are worked out.

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