Being powerless as a customer

Web ecosystem has changed a lot in the recent years, esp. in the area of e-commerce, with the rise of cloud computing and subscription economy.

With the evolving technology, many parts of an e-commerce system, or commerce parts of any website became increasingly commoditized. You need a payment processor? Paddle, Stripe, or any other alternative is there for you. Need to send files? SendOwl or just Amazon S3 with private, long links will do. Download limits? Add some transparent rules to these S3 links, or use a more sophisticated solution.

These solutions are simple, yet incomplete and is not conductive to many things customers get accustomed to. Let's see some examples:

  • Need your files again for any reason? You have to dig your emails to find the links. Unsurprisingly, at least one of them would be expired. So, you need to contact customer support, which may or may not provide the links for the files you've paid for. How about a dashboard to get a list of files and transactions for managing them yourself? Sorry. that's not provided by our platform.
  • A mystery charge on your card? No worries, a receipt will arrive. It didn't? So, contact customer service, which may or may not give you answers about that charge. If you want to monitor them via a dashboard, you won't have any, because you should have received a receipt with relevant information and links in the first place, but you didn't.

These examples are real experiences I have. All in all, if somehow the perfect workflow breaks for whatever reason, you have no power to reach anything, anyone or understand what's happening, and that's really crippling you as a customer.

These problems are compounded when these events collide with a bigger company which is mostly enterprise oriented, but you're tech savvy enough to use their personal plans. You get lower tier support while paying for expensive subscriptions and get canned responses to your support requests. It's really making life harder.

So, yes. The shiny product facades of integration companies have a dark side too. The seller gets a simple interface and a distributed tech stack which allows him/her to sleep better at night, but the customers served by that stack are in a worse state, and can't access to what they've bought and can't see why they paid this money again to the company.

At that point the seller needs to help the customer, but it's not a given, and being left in the cold is a very bad feeling for a customer.

If this trend continues to get adopted, looks like it'd be much more harder to cancel subscriptions, get our files back or just get support, and this means many unhappy customers, which will hopefully lead a change in the industry for the better.

However, I'm not holding my breath, yet.