Lessons learned from an online mall...

This past week I had the pleasure to attend MLS/NSLS staff event on Web 2.0 and several excellent break out sessions by member libraries talking about their innovative uses of technology and web 2.0 tools. In one session on IM, a participant commented. "We use IM and answer it at the desk but find it frustrating when we're busy and get "grrrrr's" from users because we can't answer their IM right away. We do tell them that we'll be with them in moment, but by the time we get back to them they've left the session.” She went on to imply that IM was not a good model for reference because users expect immediate service and are rude when they don't receive it.

Upon hearing this I had an immediate flash back to last week when I received this email from an online shopping site:

Dear Ms. Blowers,
Thank you for you interest in personalized gifts from! We are in receipt of your order, but upon closer review we noticed it was not completed.

If you would still like to place this order, simply return to the store, where your same shopping cart will be waiting for you, and enter code "complete20" (without quotes and no space) at checkout and you will receive 20% off your order. (excludes items already reduced at sale prices)

In addition, if I can personally help you in any way, please don't hesitate to email me directly at or call us at 1.866.386.8300. I'd especially like to know if by chance you experienced any problems, technical or otherwise. We look forward to serving you soon Ms. Blowers!

Kind Regards,
Jean M. Randolph
Customer Relations Manager

When I found this email in my inbox I was both pleasantly surprised and impressed. Here was an online vendor that not only followed up on abandoned purchases, but also offered me an additional 20% off to give them a second chance. Yup, you guess it, I took them up on the offer and was pleased to see that it more then covered the $7 shipping cost which had initially caused me to abandoned the order in the first place. :)

So… going back to the IM comment yesterday… are you wondering how these two are connected?

The frustration that the librarian felt when she finally was able to get back to the IM user and they had left the session is natural. But in viewing disconnect only as rude inconvenience, she was missing an even bigger opportunity to “surprise” the customer. Using the IM chat log she could have easily reinitiated contact with the IM user (through their IM id on the screen) who left the session in frustration too. The end result might be an even better customer experience and, like my email from the online mall, would have surprised them in unexpected ways.

Anyway… that’s my takeaway from last week’s email. Turn lost connections into pleasant surprises and don’t let missed opportunities turn your customers away.

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