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If an affordable luxury can be considered a guilty pleasure, then mine is most definitely “Netflix”: The online DVD rental system is incomparably convenient, and is truly revolutionizing movie rental.
It there’s one downfall to Netflix, it’s that it isn’t yet available in Canada (its original plan to expand to Canada and the UK in 2005 has been “postponed”: So when I was looking for a birthday gift for my brother last year, I started investigating other alternatives. After reading several positive reviews of “”: online, I decided to buy a gift membership on the site.
From start to finish, the experience was a lesson in poor online customer service. But that paled in comparison to the defective design of the company’s ecommerce site. It seemed very little attention was paid to facilitating navigation, and its online transaction pages were deeply flawed.

Like any Internet marketer and frustrated consumer, I made certain my concerns were heard. When I recently revisited the site to purchase another gift membership (call me a glutton for punishment), I was dismayed to find that, a year later, nothing had changed. I did notice what appeared to be some new features. User-friendly, they were not.
Much has been written about the challenges surrounding e-commerce sites. Reducing the number of steps in the purchasing process, indicating how many steps have been completed and how many still remain, providing a back link to the product page, allowing users to edit the shopping card — such best practices should be common knowledge by now. And yet, one of the most vital rules of all — making certain customers know what to do next — is, amazingly, still being overlooked.
Therein lies the problem for After choosing a desired product package, the consumer is given two options: Create an Account, or Login. However, there’s only one set of fields to fill out. How is the system to know whether the consumer is a new or existing user? Apparently it doesn’t.
Having forgotten my previous username and password, I attempted to insert my information as a new user. I got an error message. When I was certain I’d recalled my previous login information, I tried again. Another error message. Worst of all, in both instances I was given no guidance whatsoever as to what to next. Nothing — not helpful tip nor alternative option — was offered to accompany the error.
For me, that was where the transaction process ended. I simply couldn’t continue. I had hit a brick wall. And when it comes to site design, that, above all, is the most critical error an e-commerce site can make.
No doubt, there are many e-commerce sites out there who are still trying to master the art and science of Web design. To be fair, there’s a lot to learn. But when you’re in a position to dominate the Canadian market in your industry, and are preceded by a virtually perfect product in the US, you should have more motivation to improve your site offering than anyone.
If you’re listening,, I’d suggest you reassess your site (and perhaps spend a little time on this one).


  1. Karel Wegert
    Karel Wegert January 13, 2006

    Being the one for whom this gift subscription was intended, I thought I’d chime in with one small additional thought. As Ken pointed out in his subsequent post regarding, once the service is up and running it does provide what it promises (quite well I might add).
    Unfortunately, for me there is still a major issue here; one that is often more common in the non-interactive world of business. It doesn’t really matter if you have the best product or service in the world if no one can get/use it. A bad interface on your website is just as damaging as having a bad store front or unprofessional employees…it just isn’t good business. really should address this problem if they have any hope of competing once NetFlix FINALLY makes its way into the Canadian market.

  2. H.A.
    H.A. January 23, 2006

    I was on VHQonline when they were bought by I eventually left because of not only horrible customer service, but their “ziplist” is terrible.
    The site they bought, VHQonline, had a priority list. You could figure out what movies you wanted and order them. Whatever is on top is sent to you next. was like going to Blockbuster and saying, “I’d like this movie please.” But stockboy says, “No you don’t – you want this movie. I heard you say you liked it once.”
    Then he shoves you out the door. Their DVD’s are completely random, even if you put something on ASAP and the availability is high there is no real chance you’ll get it within the next three months and no way to change that.
    Their service is a joke. If you live in a rural area forget about signing up! A friend of mine had to wait 3 months (while paying for zero service) to get through to them on telephone, and then they didn’t give her any credit for their own (admitted) mistakes.
    Meanwhile, we got an email with 3 weeks free service for “a mistake” and still have no idea what that was.
    Even if you can get past their sign-up forms, don’t bother!

  3. Alex Epstein
    Alex Epstein January 20, 2007

    Zip also has atrocious, suspicious customer service. When they fail to receive a disk you’ve sent in — or they misplace it, or fail to key it in properly — they may lock that slot — so you’re getting fewer disks. They may do that even AFTER they decide that (a) you haven’t stolen it and (b) they can’t find it. So they are punishing you because they failed to receive something you mailed. Their dispute resolution process is accusatory and user-hostile.

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