So a few weeks ago I tried to make a purchase at Costco.com; “tried” being the operative word.
I went online, selected a gift for a friend who lives in California, paid using a credit card, and received email notification that my order was in progress. A couple of days later, I checked online to see the order status, and imagine my surprise when I discovered that the order had been cancelled! What?! No notification, just cancelled! It was late at night, so I fired off a note to Costco.com’s customer service department asking “What gives?” Got an email back the next day with a cryptic message that my order was cancelled because the billing information I entered did not match what my credit card issuer had on file for me. Huh?
So I called their customer service line, and got a real person. She explained that because I was ordering using a credit card with a Canadian billing address, I could not place an order on Costco.com because that is a U.S.-based site.
“You need to use a credit card with a U.S. billing address,” she said.
“I live in Canada, so all my credit cards have a Canadian address.”
“Well then you need to order from Costco.ca, the Canadian site.”
“This is for delivery to an address in California. If I buy it from Costco.ca, then the item will ship from Canada and I don’t want my friend to pay any customs and brokerage fees.”
“Plus, this specific product isn’t even available on the Costco.ca site.”
“Doesn’t matter. You can’t order from the Costco.com site unless you have a U.S. billing address.”
“I order products from American-based sites for delivery in the United States all the time. They’re always happy to take my money. I find it odd that you can’t.”
“Our system can’t process credit cards that don’t have a U.S. billing address.”
We went around in circles for a few minutes, and each time she explained that Costco.com’s system wasn’t able to process a credit card with a Canadian billing address. Finally I asked, “This can’t be the first time you’ve faced this situation, right?” “Oh no,” she replied promptly, “I hear this complaint at least two or three times a week.”
Really!? At least two or three times a week, you turn away a customer who wants to give you REAL money because YOUR SYSTEM CAN’T HANDLE IT? Let’s do the math. At an average transaction of $250, three times a week, 52 weeks in a year, that translates to $39,000 in a year. You let $39,000 a year walk away from your store BECAUSE YOUR SYSTEM CAN’T HANDLE IT? I’m thinking … it might be time to change your system!
So I hung up the phone and went to Amazon.com. I found the same item (with free shipping to boot!) and Amazon.com was very happy to take my credit card, Canadian billing address notwithstanding. Costco.com’s loss was Amazon.com’s gain!
But I gotta ask you: what’s driving YOUR business (or YOUR department or YOUR service)? Your CUSTOMERS or your SYSTEMS? What are your employees saying to your clients, internal and external. Are they helping your clients achieve their goals (and thus your financial profits), or are they falling back to the “our systems can’t handle it” excuse? No matter what industry you’re in; no matter whether you work for a for-profit or not-for-profit organization, your goal should be to help your client achieve theirs — that’s the ONLY way you will achieve yours. You’re a leader in your organization so your objective is simple — get things done! Are you LEADING your business, or are you being LED by your systems? Are you vigilantly watching for and overcoming roadblocks in your business processes, or are you working at cross-purposes to your organization’s success? I can’t wait to hear from you.