Anatomy Of An Order Gone Wrong

Rob Holthause

November 4, 2019

I recently had a very poor eCommerce experience with a large and well-established brand. The website and checkout experience were all fine, but the problems arose around communication, fulfillment, and shipping. Let’s break these down, and understand how they affect customer experience.


After placing the order in question, I received only one email, a confirmation that the order had been received. Then, radio silence… for a week and a half. When I finally called Customer Service to enquire about where my order was, they weren’t sure (and the answer they gave me was ultimately wrong.) I also wasn’t able to cancel the order, despite the fact that it hadn’t left the warehouse yet.

When customers order something online, they are putting their excitement for the new purchase on hold. Unlike buying in a store, they’re not able to see, hold, or use the product immediately. In some ways, that makes the purchase more exciting, since you have more time to think about it. But without regular and accurate communication with a customer, it feels like simply throwing money into the abyss with nothing to show for it. The solution is to keep in contact with the customer, keeping them informed, engaged, and excited about the purchase they’ve made. Customer Service Reps need to be highly trained, and provide accurate information to customers.

Fulfillment and shipping

If my order was fulfilled in the warehouse after I placed it, I wasn’t informed of it. In fact, the only email I received was that one of the items was on backorder (not confidence-inspiring.) Ultimately, that “backordered” item shipped with the rest of my order, meaning that the email was meaningless and just created frustration. The Customer Service Rep I spoke with assured me that my order would be delivered next day, despite the fact that I hadn’t selected next day delivery. Ultimately, it wasn’t delivered for another week.

Assuming that UPS, FedEx, etc. make pickups every day, then fulfillment needs to happen quickly to get the items shipped. And while items will sometimes go out of stock, that should be a rarity. Once the order has shipped, a customer should received a shipping confirmation immediately, which includes a tracking number. There’s no worse feeling than not knowing what is going on with an order that you spent money on.

What this all means

For better or for worse, Amazon has changed the game in terms of how customers expect to receive goods purchased online. But while customers are spoiled with Amazon’s lightning-fast shipping, they’re still willing to order from the sites of merchants and brands that they like, knowing that shipping might be a bit slower. The important thing for merchants is to not make that experience so painful that it drives customers away from ordering there again. Regular communication to the customer is incredibly important, as is a method of fulfilling and shipping orders that is as fast as reasonably possible.


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