Not a Good User Experience

2 minute read

Barnes & Noble logo

  1. You’ve purchased an ebook from Barnes & Noble but unfortunately your credit card was declined because, well, around the holidays your credit card company just starts randomly declining your credit card.

  2. Their web site tells you that your charge was declined, but gives you no option to attempt to redo the charge.

  3. Instead, you have to call Barnes & Noble’s 800 number, which of course is currently suffering from an unusually high volume of calls. Their automated system gives you the chance to change your payment information, except that it won’t actually allow you to do that, so you have to hold for the next available representative.

  4. After sitting on hold for twenty three minutes, you finally give up. If you were able to talk to a customer service representative, you have been warned repeatedly that you would have to give them your email address and order number, despite already having entered your order number into their automated system.

  5. You would really like the ebook that you had tried to purchase, so you try emailing customer service to ask them to redo the charge, and you complain in your email that there should be a way to do this yourself on the Barnes & Noble web site.

This is not a good experience to give your customer. A good experience will include the first step, as it’s not Barnes & Noble’s fault that your credit card company randomly declines charges around the holidays. However, given that customers likely frequently need to retry a charge, the web site should offer a button to allow you to redo the charge as well as a mechanism for changing payment information, saving both frustration and time for the customer and the cost of having a customer on hold for half an hour and providing customer service time to handle the customer’s problem.

Having your web site become unusable on Christmas Day, possibly your busiest sales day of the year (when you’re selling ebooks and many people found a nook under the tree that morning), is also not a particularly good user experience.

Unfortunately, this isn’t particularly egregious given the broad spectrum of experiences that many companies give their customers. It is very bad, however, compared to the company Barnes & Noble would like to be: Amazon. B&N is admittedly doing very well in the ebook market right now, but success can easily mask problems. Their ebook sales could easily be growing at a tremendous rate and while the overall ebook market grows at an even greater rate, meaning they’re losing market share (been there, done that). It’s tough managing growth at a fast rate, but if they want to stand out in the crowd in a positive way, they need to put more care into the overall experience they offer their users.