Transparency. In e-commerce, business, life

Transparency in e-commerce, business, life

One afternoon, about two weeks ago, I was buying the last things we needed before we went on a short holiday. There I was, in the parking lot, putting bags from my shopping cart in the trunk of my car, when the phone rang.

I was convinced it was my wife, telling me that there’s one more thing to buy. I always get that, most of the time when I’m already past the cash register or already on the way home. Murphy’s laws are inspired from reality, after all.

But no, it was not the case. This time it was a salesperson from the phone carrier I’m under contract with, telling me that they had a great, custom-tailored offer for me. As I frequently do, I told him to use my e-mail address to communicate that offer to me. He told me that he cannot do that, and that it’ll only take 2-3 minutes of my time. I didn’t have three minutes then, as I had to finish packing and go home. I suggested him to call me in a quarter of an hour. Nope, he did not want that so we finished our conversation then and there and I drove home.

Once I got home and unpacked, I called him back and asked him to tell me what it was all about. And he told me. Basically, I was going to pay pretty much the same or less, lose part of the data included in the plan which I was not using entirely anyway (I usually spend time in wireless-covered areas), get way more free voice minutes in all kinds of networks (which I did not really need, as I seldom go over my plan’s limits), etc., etc. Somewhere, during this conversation, he also told me that I won’t be able to buy a new subsidized phone for the next two years if I accepted the offer. But it got lost in the sea of information. My fault, somewhat. Or maybe entirely.

The offer sounded good, I could not identify any catch at that time, so I said ok, we’ll go with it. I had 14 days to change my mind, so that was good. But a few days later, when I really had the time to think about it, after a few days in the sun, it hit me. The price difference between a subsidized phone and a no-plan one was much higher than any economy that I could have made by switching plans. And, for the last year of my contract, my phone would have been out of warranty. Which warranty I just used to get a new charger, because the old one was no longer charging my phone completely. Suddenly, the deal that sounded ok-ish to begin with, was no longer good at all.

So what did I learn from it? That I should not commit to something before weighing in all the pros and cons. Which someone cannot really do during a phone conversation. So, basically, I should never commit to anything over the phone, when dealing with salespeople. Why? Because one can easily get into a bad deal when time is short and attention is not fully there. Why does that happen? Because sometimes, when rushed, we’re not able to see the catch. And we all hate to realize what the catch was later on.

So where am I going with all this? Why did this go to the e-commerce category as some of you may have noticed (wishful thinking, I know)? Because it’s the same. We need transparency, especially in e-commerce, when we cannot see the seller. We need to know what our options are, what we gain if we pay a little more and if those things we gain are really useful for us. We also need to know what we lose if we pay a little less and if that loss is meaningful to us or not. Because if we don’t, we’ll be resentful. We’ll hate the experience, we’ll remember it for a long time and we’ll talk and write about it. And today it will become known not just to our mother and father, sister and brother and two close friends – as it did many years ago – but also to people who’ve never met us. To people who’ve never lived in the same city / country / part of the world as us. And only some of them will remember the details. Many of them will remember that a certain particular offer, from a certain particular company, sucks. When it fact it may be pretty well-suited for other people, in spite of the fact that it wasn’t well-suited for me. Some of them will even go further with the generalization and say “Company X* sucks, I read some nasty things about them on the interwebs. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but in any case I think you should stay away from them. And, say, how are the kids lately … ?

And in e-commerce, when you’re not transparent enough, people will seek that transparency elsewhere. Review websites, price comparison websites, blogs, all kinds of sources out of your control. And what’s even worse is that on all those websites, while looking for reviews and opinions and comparisons, they will be exposed to offers similar to yours. And then … you’ve lost them. Or many of them. You’ve lost them because after working so hard to get them to your website, you did not make things clear enough. Transparent enough. Obvious enough. You did not tell them that apart from option A, there’s also option B that gives them two extra features for X more money. And also option C, where they pay Y less, but lose two features which do this and that.

Had you done that, had you

  • provided them with enough information
  • enabled reviews on your website
  • made yourself available for an honest phone conversation
  • done everything in your power to be as transparent and as customer-oriented as possible at the very moment you had the customer on your website

you’d have significantly increased your chances to close a deal and to win a satisfied customer.

Because the lack of transparency might have worked in less open environments, many years ago. And even today, it may help you win a game here and a set there. But in today’s internet-dominated society, with information everywhere, it will most certainly make you lose the championship.

I still think that the guy on the phone could have easily asked: “Do you think you’re going to want/need a new phone in less than two years? Do you think that you’re now talking less with your friends than you’d like you and that a new, more relaxed plan, might make you talk more at no extra cost? Is it worth it, to you, to give up a X EUR advantage and a one year warranty in order to win Y more minutes of quality conversation with your friends and loved ones? If it is, you should sign up on this offer”.

But no, he (his company, actually) preferred to go for the quick win. And that’s fair. It’s their decision. But it’s my money. And also my decision. My loyalty. My overall impression.

* I will not reveal the name of the company or the details of the offer for the very reasons outlined in this post.

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One response to “Transparency. In e-commerce, business, life”

  1. schtunz Avatar

    I guess, nobody would go back to a company like that in the future. If we want to build a great business, we need to plan everything for the long term. Trust is the key to success and where is the trust if there is no transparency? I just yet have to figure out…how to do that in my case…

    Mersi de sfatul!


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