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.
OMG – have you ever struck a nerve! This is a HUGE issue – and whatever happened to NAFTA anyway?!? My company also has clients in both Canada & the US (we’re a US based company, by the way and the problem is universal regardless of the origin). We often want to provide our Canadian customers with a thank-you gift in the form of a gift card. Can’t be done at Costco, Home Depot, (Amazon either if you’re trying to buy a gift card). We wanted to gift a client with a $250 Home Depot gift card. I tried to buy it online from my US credit card to be applied at a Canadian store – nada – no way; wasn’t happenin! Went through the same run-around you got. I escallated it and fired off a letter expressing my passionate opinion to US HQ and you wouldn’t believe the run-around I got trying to get a contact name and email address for a sales mgmt or marketing mgmt contact! Never got a reply from them either! I finally found a work-around that the executives could all take a lesson from. I ended up calling one of their stores in Toronto & asked the very nice and competent customer service clerk what I could do to get a gift card to my customer. Her reply was “Oh, you can buy that from me and we’ll even mail it directly to your customer if you’d be willing to provide me with their address. We’ll even pay for the stamp!” Imagine that! They even paid the postage, licked the envelope and everything! I said, “But I have a US credit card.” “No problem” was her reply. Apparently the physical stores can take credit cards from either country, so she just accepted mine; made the purchase of a hard gift card sold at their check-out counters, and kindly mailed it to my customer for me. Of COURSE I wrote an extensive letter to her manager, explaining how appreciative I was and how important it was for him to retain her talent. Of course I would have liked to forward that on to one of those nameless executives in marketing and sales as well, but never could find out a “who” to properly address. So yes, I can only conclude that some businesses just really aren’t interested in doing business. Unless you’d include monkey business!