The real cost of lost opportunities and broken promises.

Helen_goes_for_an_oil_changeI took some vacation time recently and two of those days were unplanned although I needed to get a few things done – including having the oil changed in my car. A minor but important detail – I don’t drive all that much and my car is ten years old with extremely low mileage. So car maintenance is not something that is top of mind for me. And since I loathe the idea of doing chores on vacation time, I set out to minimize the impact on my day.

I checked all the usual places and found a national chain that advertised, “30 minute oil change. By appointment only.” Not only that, pricing was upfront and listed out all the details with a simple two-word call to action, “Make Appointment.” I clicked in, found an early morning time slot available, planned my day around it and was happy to have something crossed off my list.

Fast forward to the appointment. I tell the attendant I have an appointment, he pulls it up, takes my key and I go and sit in the waiting room. 45 minutes goes by and I look out to see my car exactly where I left it. The clerk tells me there were several customers ahead of me. When I explain that I had an appointment, he tells me that sometimes people go online and make appointments and they have no control over that (apparently I caused this delay by making an appointment). He explained that the 30 minutes starts when they take the car back. So the “appointment” part of “Make Appointment” actually meant nothing.

I asked for my keys back and left.

While I was out and about, I heard a strange noise coming from my tires. At the next stop, I checked them all; couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but I realized my tires needed replacing. Like yesterday.

The next day, I’m at a competitor. With an appointment – that they had the kindness to actually treat as an appointment. With the oil change, new tires, (and an air filter they noticed needed replacing) my total bill came to more than $500.

We often talk about lost opportunities when reviewing and evaluating existing user experience. This was a big one. And it boiled down to a simple call to action. It would be easy to dismiss this problem as not about user experience because their back end system wasn’t talking to the system their retail location used. However, the real misstep here was building customer expectations with a call to action to make an appointment online when calling the actual store to make the appointment would have yielded a much better experience.

Some simple math on the lost opportunity cost – let’s suppose only 100 customers in the entire country have a similar experience (this was a national chain). And let’s assume there is a ripple effect from that broken appointment promise that keeps those 100 customers away for two years (or worse, indefinitely).

So if we double that $500 that chain lost to $1,000 per customer over those two years, there’s a potential lost revenue opportunity there of $100,000 (100 customers x $1,000 x 2 years). Factoring in how the bad experience will be relayed through word of mouth could triple that number or more.

For a national chain, I suspect that total could be much higher, but it gives you an idea of how much a poorly worded CTA can cost. In this case, it is currently costing the company about $50,000 per word.

Want to talk about lost opportunities on your website? Call for an appointment (I promise I’ll keep it).