by Guest Blogger, Lena West
NOTE: Thanks to all of you who looked for me at BlogHer in Chicago this year. Unfortunately, I could not attend because my grandfather was very ill and was not expected to "make it" - and, indeed, he lost his battle to stay in this life on Saturday (the day I would have been speaking at BlogHer). I'm glad I listened to myself and opted to stay home close to my family. Thanks for all your kind words and emails.
*sniff* Moving on...
This is a long post but good for your soul and good for your business...
My new blog pal and L.I.P.'er, Lea Woodward has been following my Women & Technology Battlecry initiative on her blog - Success Rocks. And, she has been witty enough to add a poll to her blog asking the question: "What is the biggest thing stopping you from using technology in your business?" While you can't tell from the poll how many people responded, you can see that many people are saying one of two things (there are 4 options in total):
* I believe it's important but, I don't know how to get started. (I'll address this via another blog post).
The later is the issue I want to address today.
One might say that if you've been 'burned' before, you don't let that stop you. You move on, try new things and see what does work. Ummm, not so much with technology. You see, as a technology expert, I can tell you that when you get burned by technology, it leaves a scar similar to a 4th degree burn. It tears at the folds of your business' skin and leaves a gaping hole the size of Mt. Rushmore. And, then just when you think you've healed, the scar starts oozing pus because it's "infected" other parts of your business. Damn! Not a pretty picture, eh? (Hope you weren't having lunch while reading this!)
Now, as an expert, I can also say that some of being burned is self-inflicted. Meaning, many business owners think technology is 'set it and forget it' but, as I've said before, someone has to (wo)man the machine.
But, there are times, and all too often I might add, when a company makes all the promises it needs to dominate a certain business category and then proceeds to bail on *every single one* of its promises - kinda like a slick politician.
When I first started talking about the Women & Technology Battlecry, I had a primal response to be a part of the solution - even when I didn't know what that solution was (and I still don't fully know). But, over the past few days, I've come to realize that part of my responsibility is to 'air out' companies that take advantage of us. That promise us one thing and then when they swipe our cards, do something totally different. And, so, some of my weekly posts on this blog will be dedicated to being the Technology Tattletale -- and I'm proud of it! If you have a company that you want to see featured on Technology Tattletale, shoot me a comment below or email me and I'll investigate it to be called on the digital carpet.
Warning to all technology companies: You can't continue to treat women business owners like crap and still make money with no bad press. Today is *THE* day your chickens come home to roost.
So, who's first you say? Let's look at 1shoppingcart.com (Kick Start Cart, Cartville, Practice Pay, Professional Cart Solutions, etc.) These are all the same company so anyone who says they've had a better experience with one or the other is a bit loopy.
Here is a company that has virtually dominated the e-commerce scene for small businesses, internet marketers, coaches and professional services firms since 1997. There are some alternatives (which I will list below) but, by and large, the folks at 1shoppingcart.com have the lion's share of the market - especially since, they figured out early on to be their own 'competition' and use the same back-end system with different company names. Smart.
Here's what's not so smart: (I have personally experienced the following scenarios when working with 1SC on behalf of clients so, there is no way anyone can tell me these things haven't happened)
- Piss poor follow-up on trouble tickets. If you think an e-ticket is going to do the job, think again...you'll ALWAYS have to call (see international call warning below) because of the unintelligible responses you'll get via their e-ticketing system.
- The customer service reps act like they're doing you a favor when they troubleshoot with you. If I'm calling, I already have a problem, I don't need a greasy attitude to provide the 'icing on the cake' of my horrible experience with your product.
- Reps give bad and incorrect answers. One more than a handful of occassions, I've been told that their software doesn't allow for a certain function only to start digging after my support call and find it myself. If YOU don't know YOUR product, who the hell does???
- Poor service ratings get 'lost' in the ether. They ask you to rate their service - giving the impression that they care - and when you rate their service as poor no one ever calls to resolve your complaint. Shame on you Cliff Van Kempen! (Customer Support Manager) I doubt if the CEO even gets to see these ratings, which is akin to having the same person who writes checks, open bank statements. Duh!
- Functionality challenges. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "No, we can't do that," about the most obvious needs a customer would have. For example, if you want to run a report on how many people signed-up to your mailing list, you can only see the current month's worth of sign-ups - they don't show you any history for previous months. Huh???!!!
- Support calls may be billed as international because they're in Canada. Their web site doesn't say they're located in Canada anywhere on their contact page - even though we made this request several times. So, you could be potentially holding for 20 minutes or more on an international call. They refuse to provide a toll free number for support - even for paying customers.
- No one answers support queue calls in a timely fashion. There have been untold nubmer of times I've been on hold for 20 minutes or more and no one ever answered the phone. Ever. Let's see...they don't want to take the time to troubleshoot with you on the phone and they don't answer support calls in a timely fashion...so what *are* they doing???
- Autoresponder mailings don't get delivered as they're supposed to - even on tier 1. I've had autoresponders take 24-48 hours to be delivered. Hello! This defeats the purpose of an autoresponder! Or, in the case of a multiple message autoresponder, the recipient gets message 1 and message 4 but never gets messages 2 and 3. In several instances that I've called them on this, only ONE TIME have they owned up that it's a fault with their servers.
- Double opt-in hell. Hey, I know they have to protect themselves from becoming a spam factory but, when you're trying to get people to opt into your new list, the 1SC system will only send ONE email to your list. So, if someone is on vacation or disregards the opt-in email, you can never contact them again thrugh 1SC. Not even to put them back on tier 2 delivery...you just loose the ability to contact the person through 1SC FOREVER.
- PayPal weirdness. 1SC allows you to accept PayPal as a form of payment but won't allow you to use recurring PayPal payments for subscription services or recurring monthly coaching fees.
- Dead as a doornail wish list. Mr. Customer Service himself, Cliff Van Kempen, has actually said these words to me when I've made improvement suggestions: "It's on our list but it's low priority." Well, thank you very much!
Hey people at 1SC, here's afreee tip that'll make your business better:
Stop worrying about launching your new user interface and retrain your focus on total customer satisfaction.
If you're looking for alternatives to 1SC, you might want to try:
http://www.wahmcart.com - I don't know about this service but a colleague sent this link to me the other day.
Drupal's ecommerce solution - This is open source so it might not be as 'plug and play' as 1SC but, it's a good solution.
osCommerce Online Merchant - Another open source tool and this one has GREAT functionality and more features than you can shake a stick at.
Bottomline: If technology companies want to win our business, they need to stop burning us, mean what they say and say what they mean or risk being featured on Technology Tattletale. It's just that simple.