Problems with small e-commerce sites

I recently made a purchase from a small e-commerce site and I’m quite let down. In this particular incident, I placed an order on 6/25 and was charged for the purchase on 6/26. The product has still not been received despite the sites expected delivery of 6-10 days. 2 emails , 3 calls (messages left), and 14 days later, I finally got a tracking number. The item shipped on Friday July 7th and will not get here until the 14th, almost twice the maximum expected delivery time.

I like to support smaller sites that have unique items (the type of things that are harder to find at the big e-tailers like Amazon, etc.). However, I find myself not doing so as often as I like because of customer service. Sure there exist small sites that have great customer service but there is little consistency. Here are the biggest problems I’ve experienced with small sites:

  • Slow or no reply to email inquires
  • Charging me before shipping the item(s)
  • When contact phone numbers are present, no one to answer the call and when messages are left, no call back
  • Inventory numbers on site inaccurate
  • Items don’t ship timely even when in stock

All of the focus of business rating sites like BizRate focus on general ratings and customer satisfaction. While there is nothing wrong with that, people’s expectations are quite varied. What I’d love to see is an organization that instead focuses on specific customer support issues. For example, if a site had some easily identifiable certification that lets me know they adhere to some standard customer service guarantees, I’d be more inclined to use them. Some basic guidelines I’d love to see would be:

  • Item will typically ship within 24 hours. If for some reason, the shipment is delayed, an email will be sent to notify me and allow me to modify/cancel the order as I see fit
  • Inventory is accurate. Again, if an error (which happens) occurs, I will be notified within some reasonable time-frame so I can decide what I want to do with the order
  • Order will not be billed until it is shipped
  • Tracking numbers sent within 24 hours of order shipping
  • Email/Phone inquires responded to within 24 hours

Well, enough complaining. But I must say if smaller e-commerce sites don’t do something to address these customer support issues, they will soon be out of business. Personally I know they have lost lots of my business.

  • j Jul 10, 2006, 1:19 pm

    that reminds me of the time i ordered a top from http://www.frenchconnection.com.
    it arrived with a hole in it, so i emailed them and told them that i refuse to pay for return shipping for an item that came damaged. well, no replies to my emails, so i did a charge back.
    get your $hit together, ecommerce sites!!

  • j Jul 10, 2006, 1:11 pm

    -charging your card on the 26th and not shipping out till July 7th?
    -emailing the company, leaving phone messages and they didn’t even return any of your calls or emails?

    this is totally unacceptable! when will they realize that they can’t run a business that way? how irritating. i wish there was a site where you could report these horrible businesses. bizrate is a joke.