Digital Transformation or Bust
At The New Stack, we always harp on keeping your customer-facing systems just as robust as your competitors'. Now here’s a little personal case study of why this is so essential.
So the father of one of the staff members of The New Stack can’t get out as much as he used to, even to do basic chores like grocery shopping. The good news is that the local supermarket chain where he lives offers a pick-up service: He could go to the website, pick out the foodstuffs needed, then, at the agreed-upon time, we would go to the store, have the parcels loaded directly into our car and bring them back to the house. This beats by a country mile going into the store ourselves and trying to interpret Dad’s hand-written list of required groceries, some of which probably haven’t been in stock for decades (“hoagie spread”? “school pies”? WTF?)
One week, however, when we showed up the house, the Old Man was agitated. The supermarket chain web site where he ordered the food kept crashing. He would sign in, select his items, then the site would lose his shopping cart and all his history. So he’d start again. After a while, he couldn’t log in at all. He called customer service, who asked him to reset his password. He did, loaded his virtual cart once again, only to have the site crash once again. He waited a day, tried again, and found neither the new password NOR the old one worked. He was at his wit’s end when we arrived that morning.
“Hmm, have you tried the Walmart site?” we asked. Walmart, it turned out, had an identical service. We didn’t consider using it initially. For years, we kept a certain brand loyalty to the local supermarket chain — it's invested in the community, paid its employees well, and so on. But Walmart, a national chain, had one thing on that day our local chain did not: a working website. So we used Walmart and then kept returning because it already knew my Dad’s preferences. We could go back, but why chance it now?
For the (probably-overworked) web design team of the local supermarket chain, they experienced what they probably saw as a painful, though ultimately temporary, outage. But the reality is, the outage lost at least one long-time, repeat-business customer, if only because it altered his grocery-buying habits — habits that the local supermarket chain had a lock on for years prior.
When you move your business online (“digital transformation”), please keep in mind that while you can please your customer with improved service, you can easily lose that customer if that service doesn’t work flawlessly.