This is a simple story of an online purchase that went well despite a problem. The fact that this is sufficiently rare to make me want to write about it is sad, but that’s how it is.

What happened was, I need a new computer monitor, knew the one I wanted, and the manufacturer’s web site suggested CDW as a reseller. Turns out CDW has a decent web-site that let me track it down despite some fuzziness about the model designation, the price was reasonable, and in fact had two of them sitting in a warehouse in a nearby suburb. Score one for super-efficient interaction design. So I placed my order.

The next evening it hadn’t shown up, so I went back to the web-site and it was easy enough to find my order, marked “Not shipped”. Also on the your-order page was a title saying “Need help?” with a picture of a gentleman named Dwayne, along with his phone and fax numbers and an “E-Mail Dwayne” link.

Since it was after hours, I hit the link and it popped up a nice little email form with the order and tracking numbers filled in, “Dear Dwayne” at the top, and “Thanks, Tim” at the bottom. I filled in an inquiry and fired it off.

The next morning, Dwayne called me, saying the bank had bounced my credit card, wanted to make sure I had the number and address and so on right, we checked them, said he’d try again. A few minutes later he called back saying the bank wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t say why, could I call them.

So I called the number on my credit card and discovered that I’d screwed up (or maybe CDW had, who cares, it happens) the card expiry date. I grumbled that neither the bank nor CDW had called me proactively and she explained that online computer shopping is very fraud-heavy, and they assume any problem is most likely the symptom of some bad guy at work.

Anyhow, since it was after Dwayne’s quitting time, I hit the email link again with the revised date, and had an answer in my inbox like ten minutes later, he must have been working late; the screen’s on the way, they say.

I have to say I was astounded, first of all, that there was a responsive, intelligent person easily accessible to help me, and second, how much difference it made having the guy’s picture there. I know it’s silly, but it’s easier to talk to somebody when you know what they look like.



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From: Gleb Zhgun (Jul 30 2008, at 16:59)

The bank's rhetoric seems very strange.

If they assume that the problem is most likely the symptom of some bad guy at work, they should also assume you would like to be notified about this activity asap.

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From: William V. (Jul 30 2008, at 17:22)

When you wrote about Dwayne "working late" I assumed you were ironic. But when you end with saying how nice it was to see his picture I am not so sure anymore. Do you really think this is a photo of the guy you talked to? What's the chance?

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From: Masklinn (Jul 30 2008, at 23:54)

@William V.

> Do you really think this is a photo of the guy you talked to? What's the chance?

From the post, CDW seems to try for good service to its customer. Giving each customer (or order) a "personal" adviser wouldn't be too hard (randomly draw from your pool of supports, trying to spread the load over all of them) and it may very well do wonder for:

* User confidence, if they know who they talk to in advance, they may empathize and consider support as human persons instead of dread a "relation" with an impersonal and disincarnate voice

* Efficiency and coherence, if the one you're calling for help is the one you spoke to the day before, he probably remembers your circumstances, what he told you, etc...

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From: William V. (Jul 31 2008, at 09:16)

Masklinn: Maybe I am too cynical. But issues such as fairly distributing the load (hard to know ahead of time how much work will be involved in a given customer request) and dealing with the "off" time of your customer support person makes it more complicated than it sounds. At least if you want to do it in a way that actually improves service.

Anyway, even if this isn't a photo of the actual person you talk to if at least it is a photo or an actual CDW employee as opposed to some stock photo of a happy smiling good looking person then CDW is already way ahead of most other companies. That's how low my expectations are...

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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
July 30, 2008
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I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.