Three weeks ago, I placed an order with a Hong Kong-based online store that offers its e-commerce platform as a way for its retail partners in the country to reach consumers outside Hong Kong.
Three weeks later, today, I've yet to receive the products I ordered but the payment has already been charged to my credit card and the amount is already reflected in my bill statement for this month.
On top of that, one of the items I purchased is a pre-order product, which means buyers are able to place orders for it before it's available in the market and will receive the product as soon as it's officially released by the manufacturer or supplier.
Problem was, my pre-order item was supposed to be released in March 2008 but is still unavailable as of today, according to the Hong Kong online store. I had placed my order on the assumption that I would only be charged for it when it's available and has been shipped to me. After all, that's how Amazon.com does it.
Naturally, I am concerned about paying for a product which launch date has come and gone but is still unavailable. What if the manufacturer decides not to release it? Rather than go through the hassle of arranging for a refund, wouldn't it have been less cumbersome for the online store to charge me only after the product has been shipped?
It is disappointing to see that even the most basic of business policies and processes still elude some of Asia's online retailers, 10 years after I wrote my first article on B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce in the region.
What annoys me most is that the capabilities and technology are available for companies to deploy, and provide a better online shopping experience for consumers. So why aren't they putting these tools to good use?
Surely it doesn't take a sophisticated ERP or SCM system for an online store to automatically receive notifications when a pre-order product is still unavailable past its launch date. This would have enabled the company to then decide the best course of action to take. For instance, it can take the product temporarily off the shopping list, or check with the supplier about a revised launch date and update its site.
If the online store had the tool that allowed it to send a bill to my credit card immediately after I'd placed my order on its Web site, then surely it should be able to access the technology to provide better customer service.
Ironically, this Hong Kong online retailer proudly boasts on its site that its e-commerce platform was developed in-house.
There are various IT tools already available to help businesses offer at least the most fundamental of customer service, so it's a pity when some companies just don't have the good sense to use it.
When will Asia's businesses learn to see customer satisfaction as a priority?