Oh, look what came in the mail yesterday: The order I tried desperately to cancel last week. But, no, UPS dropped it off, and the packing slip said nicely, “Thank you for your order! We are committed to ensure [sic] your experience exceeds your expectations.” Well, you failed.

Let me start from the beginning.

You see, I’m working on reviews for the latest “Best And Worst Of Website User Experience” report (check out last year’s report if you’re curious), and this year we’re evaluating the user experience at the top four tablet manufacturers’ sites. Instead of actually ordering brand new tablets, we are substituting an inexpensive accessory, completing the checkout process, and then immediately canceling the order so that nothing ships and no cards get charged. All went fine in canceling three of the orders, but the fourth, from a company that shall remain nameless, proved more difficult.

Here are all the steps I took to try to cancel the order:

  • I tried chat. I went to the “Help” page on the site and found listed in the contact info section a link to chat and a phone number. I initiated the chat and reached an agent, but the conversation was very slow (about 20 lines of communication in 15 minutes), the rep was hard to understand, and she couldn’t help me. She told me to call 1-800-[company].
  • I tried the website itself. I could check order status very easily on the site, but the info just told me the status (“In process”) and provided no contact information in context for order questions.
  • I tried calling. I called the phone number the chat agent pointed me to, and the only logical options routed me to tech support. There was no option for order support. I hung up, realizing that I didn’t need tech support, and called the phone number on the initial “Help” page. Still tech support. This time, I waited for an agent. The agent asked for all kinds of contact info but then said he couldn’t help me. But he did give me another phone number to try, the “web order status” line.
  • I tried calling another number. I called that “web order status” line number and got an eCommerce vendor/outsourcer that was clearly not the one I had placed an order with. This other company had no record of my order and couldn’t help me.
  • I tried reaching the eCommerce vendor directly. I went to the site of the eCommerce vendor and called headquarters. The receptionist had clearly never heard a call like mine and routed me to someone in sales. That person was confused by my question, put me on hold to ask someone else . . . and then hung up on me, presumably accidentally.
  • I tried email. I replied to the order confirmation email that I had received saying that I’d like to cancel the order. I received no response, not even something automated saying that the email address doesn’t work or confirming that it does. (By the way, the shipping confirmation email came from the same address and told me I could respond to that address with questions.)
  • I tried to stop the charge on my card. I called my bank to get them to stop the charge. After reaching an agent, I went through the process of verifying my identity, explained what I wanted to do, and identified the charge. The agent told me that, because that charge was still processing, she couldn't do anything about it until it posted, which would take three days. She said to call back three days later, and someone could initiate the claim.

The icing on the cake? The next day, I got a phone call from an agent surveying me about my phone experience with 1-800-[company].

And then yesterday, about a week after the incident, the package arrived on my doorstep. Despite a chat session, a site visit, five phone calls, and an email, I could not stop that package from arriving. This represents a clear breakdown in the customer experience ecosystem at this company.

How? Well, first of all, the company outsources its eCommerce site to a vendor. The manufacturer name stays on the site, but it’s clearly not handled by the manufacturer directly. This means that it wasn’t clear who owned my order, no one could help me, and both sides evaded responsibility. Second of all, the site itself and the phone routing system weren’t clear about how to contact anyone with questions about an order, not technical support. Even the technical support agents didn’t know how.

This experience won’t get reflected in the report I write or the scores this company receives, but I’ll tell you this: I’m never ordering anything from the company again, and I’m crossing my fingers I can return what I did buy.