Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ouroborus Customer Service = Bad User Experience Taken All the Way to Eleven!

Recently, I was checking my customer account on the American Girl® website. I noticed that a purchase (made on my behalf) at the AG Orlando store had posted under "My Orders" and out of curiosity I clicked on the link to View Details of the order. Instead of loading the order details, the page returned an error: "The store has encountered a problem processing the last request. Try again later. If the problem persists, contact your site administrator." Based upon the source file, the page seems to be having a problem polling the remote data from the store's database (some sort of misconnect/misconfig) and displaying it on call.

As this is not what is expected to occur, I contacted American Girl® to alert them of the website error. I gave them the link I clicked (View Details) and the error message returned. I received a reply that said, "Please call our toll free number and we will be happy to give your order details to you." Huh? First, I didn't ask for any order details. Second, I just told you that your website is broken and your response is to ask me to phone you for help with my order. Third, is reading comprehension an elective these days?

I responded by saying that I didn't need order help. I knew what this order was, it was from a few days prior, but at some point down the road I might need to reference an old order. As it stood, doing this was currently an impossible task. I needed for the website to be fixed. It's glitched and I was reporting an error. I then received an email response saying, "I clicked the link that you sent and it just asked me to login to the American Girl site, (I didn't login but) I don't see any error. Call us. A two-way conversation will allow us to help you with your order."

I responded by saying, "Again, I don't need help with this specific order, I need the process of viewing any order's details to work. Obviously, the link asks for a login as it pulls up (private) customer data. It's specific to my account (trying to pull up the order upon which I clicked). I'm trying to get a website error corrected. Calling you would not help this issue as I have given you the relevant data that I have. It's a server-side issue. Please pass the information on to your IT Department or whoever manages your website." (I'd checked the link in multiple browsers/OS and it always returned the same error.)

Finally, after going back and forth like this through roughly SEVEN emails, I got a response that said, "We forwarded the information you gave us to our IT Department. While they take a look at the issue, attached is a PDF copy of your order for your reference." Sigh.

At least, the error has now (presumably) been brought to the attention of someone that can inspect the error and hopefully correct it. But this should not be the customer experience. Not only did the CS Agent/s repeatedly ignore what I clearly stated (this isn't about me getting details of this order, this is about fixing a glitch on the website), but I was repeatedly asked to call in for the benefit of a 2-way conversation when I (also) repeatedly stated that I had no desire to call and I had included all the relevant information I had in the INITIAL contact email.

Sadly, this Ouroborus (loop) customer service has become the new normal. It's American Girl® in the example given here, but this happens nearly every time I contact customer service for any company. It's like incompetence is the new SOP. When did this happen? Finding an employee who can actually do their job is the exception. I try to remain civil in my correspondence, but it is becoming more difficult to do so, especially when I say the same thing over and over: I have no desire to call (why do you think I chose to email in the first place?); I gave you all the information I had in my initial contact; why is your response completely irrelevant to the issue about which I contacted you?

I know that most customer service support is menial labor and in many cases this is outsourced menial labor (Hello Amazon), but if as a company you don't think enough of your business to ensure that the people who present your "face" to your customers has some basic sense, then you shouldn't be surprised when you lose customers full stop. And companies have the nerve to complain that customer loyalty no longer exists? Hah! If I need to explain your business policy to your customer service reps or troubleshoot your systems for them, then I should also be sent their paycheck, because I'm doing their JOB. It's patently ridiculous. I'll tell you how to Make America Great Again stop employing morons. Oh, wait!

And don't get me started on the demise of the USPS. Mail delivery used to be a virtual guarantee (neither rain, sleet, etc.) now we're lucky if the mail ends up in the mailbox or gets delivered at all. (Several residents in my neighborhood have complained recently about mail being seemingly thrown on to their front porch, instead of put in the box.) As a nation, we have seemingly absconded from personal accountability. And it's a sad state we live in. OK. I'm coming down from my soapbox for now.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Day = 24 Hours But Not Every 24 Hours Period is A Day #BadUE @dlvrit #HCI

What's with all these people (coders) who don't understand what a day is?

I keep running into offers and events that claim to be permissible daily (vote daily, post daily), but function on a rolling 24-hours clock. I have sent in numerous complaints. Yes, one day equals 24 hours; however, not every random 24-hours period is a day. This amounts to lazy programming by coders who either don't want to or don't know how to sync a day clock to a (local) time zone. They just create a 24-hours cookie and literally call it a day.

A (mean solar) day by definition is a fixed interval, not a rolling one. For any day in general, you have the liberty to decide where you want to fix it, i.e. starting at 2:00p every 24-hours, but it must repeat at this same fixed point until the end of the calendar or promotion period, etc.. Otherwise, it's NOT a day, but merely a 24-hours period. Therefore, a rolling 24-hours clock by definition is NOT a day.

For example, who in Hell is going to note that he voted at 3:41p on Tuesday and remember to come back at 3:41p + 1 millisecond on Wednesday to be allowed vote, again? Not I. If I voted Tuesday (at whatever time) then I should be able to vote on Wednesday at whatever time, it's a new day, after all. Having to wait until the exact random moment after a rolling clock expires is nuts, and of course, this incrementally moves the clock forward for the next time, eventually shorting the user of time. This is especially nuts when you don't state up front it's a rolling interval, but advertise "do this daily." (Most people will presume daily means "Midnight until 11:59p" local time as that's how DEFINITIONS work.)

I'm looking at you, Strong Museum of Play (daily vote) and dlvr.it (daily post limit). Fix this -ish!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

List of 300+ Commission-Free ETFs #FinancialTools #Resources

Interested in building a low maintenance cost portfolio? Check this list of 300+ commission‑free Exchange‑Traded Funds (ETFs) researched & rated by independent professionals at Morningstar Investment Management LLC ---a free public document provide via TD Ameritrade (AMTD).

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Odd Customer Appreciation @TDAmeritrade #TMI Inactive = Disengaged. This is Your #Reward? #BadUI

TDAmeritrade recently launched a limited-time rewards program aimed at helping less active clients become more proactive (and tying said activity to earning potential incentives). There's nothing wrong with this! In fact, if such a program encourages some of your dormant clients to become active clients, then it's a win for your company.

I would suggest; however, that naming the Login Portal for this special rewards program "TDA Disengaged Clients" (not to mention that the URL webid = "TDDIS") is perhaps NOT the most prudent move. It is perhaps, too much information and a negative word/s connotation. Words matter. But of course, this is merely my opinion.

An example of a "bad user experience" (the user is not bad, the experience is).

HINT: You probably want to re-name this webpage. Just saying.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Google Search Console: Blogger #Error Robots Exclusion Defaults

A few days ago, I received an error alert email from Google Search Console which stated that the search engine spider had crawled my ModDoll Fun! site and encountered an issue.

New issue found:

Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt
It stated that robots.txt had specified a specific URL be excluded or blocked from search indexing, but the URL had been indexed anyway (because other site content referenced it). It issued a warning to which basically said, "Our spider likes to respect robots.txt rules, but we think this page is relevant to search. Do you really want this page excluded from Google Search results? Fix this!"

I found this odd. Not that the spider was polite, but that the ModDoll Fun! robots.txt file was blocking a specific URL from the search index. ModDoll Fun! is hosted on Blogger.com and by default Blogger automatically generates a robots.txt (with which it cautions you from fiddling). ModDoll Fun! is a playtime/hobby site without any extraordinary web development needs. I hadn't touched the robots.txt file, which means this error is entirely due to Blogger (or rather its algorithm) determining the URL in question would somehow be an issue or that it contained content that would be problematic for a search spider. The spider disagreed. And so did I.

This is the URL: http://www.moddoll.fun/search/label/events.

Can you think of any reason why an auto-generated page containing all the posts tagged with a label called "events" would freak out a robot or in this case, a software program? Once, I considered it for a minute, I chuckled. Yes, boys and girls, it would seem that Blogger erroneously assumed that each post labeled "events" was an actual event, or computer programming subroutine. By default Blogger said, "No, no, no, you can't try to surreptitiously push coding snippets onto an unsuspecting spider." And as a result, tagged this URL as excluded or blocked in the robots.txt file.

The problem is that on ModDoll Fun!, which is an 18" Doll Collector's & DIY Modeler's site, posts labeled as "events" are NOT computer program subroutines, instead these are posts about Doll/Toy Events I've attended or in which I am interested. It's an obscure error and I solved it by renaming the label, making "events" into "in-store events," but really Blogger needs to get a grip.
In all seriousness... Anyone else able to replicate this error? Or come up with an alternative reason for only blocking this one specific page, the auto-generated "posts tagged with the label events" page? Renaming the label corrected the search console issue, but....
Kudos to the curious Google Search spider that indexed the page regardless of instructions to do otherwise (though you wouldn't want a spider to ignore a rules document at its discretion in every case obviously) and then sent a warning alert to me asking if its actions were correct. Yes, Google Search spider the URL should have been indexed. Tell your cousin, the Blogger bot to adjust its algorithm for determining excluded URLs.

Not all "events" are equal, or an hacking attempt. (I'm blowing virtual raspberries.)