Complaint handling

Finding the truth behind online shopping disputes

It’s one of the paradoxes of the digital age. As online marketers will tell you, the internet is an accountable medium. Advertisers know how many people click on their ads. Marketing agencies can tell you exactly who has said what about whom on social media. And web businesses have a raft of statistics on bounce, conversion, shopping cart abandonment and average order values. What’s more, the owner of an online store will probably also know where customers come from – search engines, affiliate sites, etc., where they go on site and where they drop off. Everything is tracked, traced and analysed.

And yet disputes occur between customers and merchants. Yes, the vast majority of online transactions run smoothly but despite all the accountability created by digital technology, situations arise where buyers and sellers find themselves at odds over the outcome of a transaction. The buyer says one thing, the seller another and the result is a dispute that may run on for days or weeks, damaging the customer’s perception of the brand, regardless of the outcome.

How disputes arise

Let’s take an example. A customer is buying a shirt and tie for a wedding. He’s not the most organised individual and he leaves it until the last few days before the event to make the purchase. However, aware of the time pressures, he finds a site that offers a “next day delivery” option and clicks on the appropriate tick box or button. Problem solved.

Two days later when the clothing hasn’t arrived, he rings the call centre to complain. The agent has no record of the “next day” click. The customer, for his part is adamant that he opted to pay extra to get a guaranteed delivery. Faced with a call centre agent who doesn’t have the necessary information or tools to resolve the situation, the customer becomes angry. This is hugely frustrating for the agent, who simply doesn’t know whether or not the customer did opt for next day delivery. Perhaps the customer is mistaken. The system says “standard delivery” and the system never lies.

Let’s cut to another call centre where an even angrier exchange is taking place. True bargains are relatively rare on the internet so when a new homeowner saw a solid wood table on sale for £25 plus delivery, she jumped at the opportunity, assuming the site was offering bankrupt stock or something similar. A few hours later an email arrives confirming that the order has been processed at a price of £250. In a heated exchange, service agent maintains the item was clearly priced at £250. The customer rejects this suggestion and demands to have the order honoured at the original price.

Again, the sales agent doesn’t have the tools to check the veracity of the customer’s claim quickly and accurately.

Throwing light on the problem

Disputes of this kind arise when the perceived experience of the customer is at variance with the merchant’s expectations. For instance, if there is no record of a customer clicking the “next day” delivery box, then the merchant’s expectation is that the customer has simply failed to go for that option. The customer may think he clicked the right button but as far as the merchant is concerned, he probably didn’t.

So how can you resolve these situations?

The easiest way is to replay the customer’s journey through the site, focusing in particular on the point where the dispute has arisen. This can be achieved using UserReplay’s platform which records every customer journey and allows selected journeys (or segments of journeys) to be re-run in real time.

Essentially, this enables website operators to see every click and entry on the site, page-by-page as the customer progresses. In practice, this means that if a customer has clicked a “next-day-delivery” button that will be apparent on the replay. And if that click hasn’t been processed correctly, this could mean there is a fault in the ecommerce system. Equally, the replay may show the customer simply forgot to click.

It’s a simple and easy way of resolving disputes and one that can be put in the hands of contact centre agents, enabling them to get to the truth of the matter quickly. This avoids protracted, brand-damaging arguments.

Of course, customers may still dispute the company’s version of events when recounted over the phone, but crucially if a full-scale legal dispute arises, the company has clear evidence of what has taken place.