How to ask for a customer’s email
I was planning a trip to visit my family and friends, so I had to go to the mall to get them some presents. I wanted to give them some simple but nice and simple things so I went to Aeropostale. I chose the items I liked and then straight to the cash register. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that the first thing the sales girl asked me was my email. I gave it to her, she just punched it into the register, scanned the items, I payed and that was it. Painlessly fast.
I later went to Gap to get some clothes for me. This one was even a little bit better. By the time I gave the sales girl my credit card she told me that they already had my email address and that they could send me the receipt there. I’m very good friend with electronic documents and I prefer them over paper all the time. So that’s how I got my receipt, just two seconds after I was out of the store my iPhone vibrated letting me know that I already had it.
How you do not ask for a customer’s email
I travelled to Buenos Aires a couple of weeks ago and was presented with the opportunity to deal with some more buying experiences. I had to get a keyboard for my mom’s computer, so I went to Compumundo, which is something like Best Buy in Argentina. The sales guy helped me pick the keyboard I needed, and then we moved to his computer to process the sale. He asked me all of my information (name, address, telephone number, postal code) for taxes purposes and then the email.
He started typing my email address (I was besides him so I could see everything he was doing). I noticed the application he was using was console mode (like in the old DOS days) and so I see how he couldn’t get to enter the ‘@’ symbol. One time, two times, three times. The ‘@’ was nowhere to be found. I was standing there for at least 90 seconds waiting for this guy to get his thing together, but it seemed like it was never going to happen. I tried to help him, suggested some alternative ways to enter the damn ‘@’. What annoyed me the most was that he couldn’t even get over the step where the system asked him for the email address. The system required him to put an email address. And not any email address, just something with an ‘@’ symbol. After seeing how frustrated he was, I suggested him getting some help from someone else. I could feel his embarrasement.
So another guy came, kind of making fun of “the guy that cannot type a simple ‘@'” and he typed in my email address. This is what he typed into the system:
the customer doesn’t@have an email address
You can clearly see that there is a ‘@’ in the middle, so the system was happy thinking it got a valid address.
What could have happened
I just imagine if this would have happened to someone that is not a social anthropologist like me. The guy would have tried two or three times to punch the email address, up to the point where the customer’s patience ends. The customer would have told the guy to put the keyboard where the sun doesn’t shine and went out of the store. End of story.
Consequences of this:
- Customer gets annoyed, frustrated, angry. Doesn’t want to go to this store anymore. There are plenty of places where the customer can get his need satisfied.
- Sales guy gets frustrated. He lost a sale, so he just lost money. And for something that wasn’t even his fault. He had to stand customer’s complain. To whom this guy would talk? HR? His boss? If this happens a couple of times, he would even consider switching jobs, given the case that he looses enough money out of this kind of nonsense.
- The company looses money. The company have just lost a sale, and probably a customer for good, so even more money goes down the drain in potential sales. And what about if the company looses the sales guy? Wanna talk about money invested in the training and experience he got?
And all of this because just one guy, probably a programmer (nothing personal with programmers, I used to be one!), just thought and made the unconscious decision that forcing some validation on email address was good.
Customer experience is king
Customer experience, from beginning to end, is king in any kind of retail store. So it is very important that if you have some kind of retail store, you put someone in charge of this. Please validate the system, and by system I don’t mean the computers. Play the customer a couple of times. Do the mystery shopper thing. And please help yourself and your customers get things as easy as you can.