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CactusAt a speech in New Orleans on Monday I said we were just five percent of the way into the Internet — that of all the things that could simplify our lives and save us time, only five percent of them are here so far. New companies such as Pandora are pressing the envelope to do great things but unfortunately many existing companies have not kept pace with expectations.
This morning I checked on the status of a medical prescription at Express Scripts, my "online" pharmacy. The web site had an order number but did not show the name of the medication. Clicking on "check status" gave a line that said "In pharmacy" — since May 6. No information available. Sending an email to them is hopeless — I have done it before — they respond to the email by telling you to call if you need information. I called and was told they had received the prescription on May 3 and it then takes them three days to enter it into the system. Four days later they determined that it needs "prior authorization" and so they faxed a form to the doctor requesting that he fax a form to the insurance company who would then need to fax a form to customer service who would then notify the pharmacy it is ok to ship the medication. The pharmacy and customer service are the same company. There is no feedback to the customer at any point. Meanwhile everyone is calling everyone and the doctor’s office is so overloaded with calls about prescriptions that you can’t get through to them. This is the status of online pharmacy. Five percent would be an overstatement.
Then I made a reservation at Marriott.com. At the end of the form was a "comments" box and I entered some things that I thought would be helpful. Upon hitting the submit button I got an error message saying "Comments too long". The form only accepts 45 characters — a ridiculous limitation in these days of inexpensive storage. Well designed online forms that limit the text input tell you how many characters you have remaining. Not this one — there is no indication given of how many characters have actually been entered and the text box actually has four lines of 64 characters each. You just keep shortening and entering submit until it is satisfied. What could they be thinking? The confirming email arrived quickly but because they had embedded some javascript in the email to make it look pretty, it could not be printed. Travel sites generally are getting better but they still do a lot of dumb things.
The point that top management of these and many other companies are missing is that the perception of their company and their brand is no longer based on their past history or even the reputation of their products and services. The way we see them is the way we see their web sites. Unfortunately, a lot of things we see are not pretty. Increasingly our loyalties will shift to the companies who make our lives simpler and save us time instead of frustrating us. Many are trying hard but they have a long way to go.