The cost of laziness

Or why single browser support is bad for your business...

I listen to a lot of talk radio during my commute. This morning Ronn Owens on KGO and he related an interesting story that I'd like to share with you. Ronn is going to CES today and the only flight Vegas he can get on leaves today at 1:20. Ronn is flying on United who have this feature called "EasyCheck-in Online". The idea is simple, print your boarding pass from home within 24 hours of the flight.

So Ronn tries this last night, logs in and get all the way to the final print stage and when clicking on the "print" nothing happens. Another click or two yields the same non-result. So unrelented, he backs completely out of the system and attempts the procedure again. This time the system tell him that it can't print because he's already checked in. Whoops!

Now Ronn is stuck, he calls United and explains the situation. The operator he spoke to says that she takes 10 calls a day like this:

"Does your browser block pop-ups?"
"It pops up a window, you need to turn off pop-up blocking to use this"
"Well it should tell me that"
"I know... Are you using Internet Explorer?"
"Well it only works on Internet Explorer"
"Well it should tell me that"
"I know..."

Now I looked at the UAL site an buried at the bottom is a small link to Compatible Browsers. It's not obvious that Safari (Ronn's likely browser -- he's a mac head) would not be supported nor is there any mention at all of pop-ups.

Here's where my point becomes clear. If a single operator gets this type of call 10 times a day, multiplied by the number of operators gives you a rough estimate of how many of your paying customers you are pissing off per day. I hear that the rough cost of a single tech support call is in the neighborhood of $20 per call.

How much would it cost UAL to have paid a web programmer to do the work right in the first place? Seems like they could add little nuggets like "Disable pop-ups" for about a buck. I have spent many hours working on complex forms and dynamic layouts to ensure that they work in all the browsers I have access to, and many more testing those pages because I don't have a call center dedicated to telling my client's cusomers to use another browser. You either pay a little up front to do it right or you pay a lot down the road.

UAL can contact me if they'd like to stop bleeding from support calls, lost business, long hold times or any of the other rippling affects of their shitty support for anything not-IE.

I'm not holding my breath though.


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