If You Can’t Find It, You Can’t Buy It

Recently, I tried to pay my Rogers (Canada) bill online. Considering that you’re trying to give them money they really make it very difficult for you. Eventually I managed to set up an e-billing account for my banking. Linking this to Rogers for some reason necessitated downloading Firefox, as it does not support Safari (this makes me hopping mad; I have Flock on my mini, but don’t see the need to have two browsers on my Air). Anyway, having set all this up I discovered it’s only helpful from next month. I could scream. The problem of what to do this month is on-going.

My modem (provided by Rogers), when properly secured, is also incompatible with my iTouch and Wii. I would call them, but I’ve already lost the will to live. Maybe tomorrow.

In classes on Usability and E-commerce, we learn about this principle that if people can’t find something they can’t buy it. Usability is not just good practise for E-commerce – it’s essential to support the business model.

However apparently it’s not essential for banks or bill payment. When they cut off your phone I doubt “but I couldn’t find my bill” will be considered a legitimate excuse. By this point, you’ve committed to the service and you can bank at a branch or an ATM, and pay your bill at the post office or by credit card (admittedly both these options are harder when the busses are on strike and your credit card is British). So it seems the usability of the site doesn’t matter so much.

I really disagree. I’ve banked online using 2 British banks, 1 Canadian, and 1 US. They are, with the exception of HSBC UK, some of the worst company sites I’ve had the misfortune to come across. HSBC is no paragon, mind. They have a slightly bizarre security system where attempting to log-on twice in the same browser (so without “quitting” Safari – closing the window and then, later opening another one is inadequate) locks you out. Fair enough, perhaps, but to discover this you have to phone them – which is just a pain.

And all this is so stupid. Encouraging your customers to pay their bills online and transfer money directly has got to be cheaper. Every time they have to call if costs the customer in time (and possibly money), the company, in money and also the intangible costs associated with annoying the hell out of your customer. We’re in the midst of a recession, if there was ever a time to try and reduce overhead it’s now. Ironically that might just be by shelling out the cash to conduct a thorough usability evaluation and redesign of these websites.

Will it happen though? I’m sceptical. It’s hard to switch banks, and I would be with an alternative phone company, only they had the even bigger drawback – despite two attempts and numerous phone calls they never got as far as connecting my phone.

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