Your Error Messages Are Losing You Sales

I am throwing a massive 4th of July lake party this week. And as with any respectable party I need audio. Loud, party-inducing, dance-inspiring, non-stop slammin’ tracks.

For this one, I decided to try a new start-up that promises huge sounds. Problem is, they are green, and they are having problems shipping. So, I will not see this product in time (A topic for a future post). Under the gun and desparate, I took to the interwebs at the wee AM hours to find a Plan B. After finding the perfect secondary solution, their highest-end most expensive product, I pulled the trigger and started to checkout.

Already a little stressed with the situation, and after filling out a massive checkout form, I pressed “Submit” only to be presented with an error message:

Gateway Error. Unable to process your transaction.

Yikes! Time to bounce.

Well not quite. This company was lucky. I wasn’t about to throw a Mime theme party. So, I tried again. And again. And again. All attempts resulting in the same error. – Ouch!

After endless failures, I took to emailing Customer Service and let them know what was happening. Then, I went back to my brute-force-attack to get this order through. Luckily, for me, and for them, my exquisite hacking skills finally got it to go through! 😀

The next morning, I received a response from customer service that incited my writing this post. Well, you know what, let me just paste the conversation here:

Jacob Mulholland: 3:46am

I am trying to order [AUDIO EQUPMENT] for a party that I have on 7/2 — I need this ASAP! I have selected next day air because I need sound for this party so BAD!

Your site is giving me “Gateway Error” when I try to checkout 😦 — What gives?!

Kylie D. (COMPANY): 8:00AM

Hello Jacob,

Thank you for contacting [COMPANY]. According to our records, your card was declined by your bank probably due to the price of [AUDIO EQPIPMENT]. However, I am able to see that your order did go through and you will be receiving it by tomorrow! Enjoy your [AUDIO EQUIPMENT]!

We apologize for the inconvenience and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Best Wishes,

Kylie D.| Customer Service Team

On its face, not bad. I did end up getting my order through, and the customer service was expedient, pleasant and informative. The problem is, I never should have had to reach out to them. In fact, I never should have seen this error message twice. The problem that I was confronting could easily be resolved, and was 100% my responsibility to resolve it. Yet, had I not been in such a pickle to get audio equipment on time (all other companies were quoting 7/5 delivery), I would have bounced on the very first “Gateway Error,” and moved on to purchase my equipment elsewhere.

So, what are the take aways here?

1. Know Your Objective.
The first action to preventing this situation is truly knowing your site objective. For most readers this sounds obvious, but it is often overlooked. I see it all of the time. In building their site, teams get hung up on subjective secondaries: fonts, colors, images, nifty widgets, etc. and they forget what they are actually trying to accomplish: convert! Every decision in regard to your site should lead with that at top of mind: convert! This, certainly, includes error messaging. When you hit an exception or error scenario in your User Flow, push yourself to determine how it can be leveraged to help your user get back on the path to conversion. Make your solution clear and simple. Your users should be able to easily understand their situation, immediately remedy it on their own, and get back on the path to conversion.

2. Define Your User Flow Scenarios All Of The Way To Conversion.
It is inevitable. On a long enough timeline all users will leave your site. But this should never happen until they, convert! In the scenario I present in this post, COMPANY had an obvious opportunity push for conversion simply by informing me that the issue that I was confronting was due to my credit card being declined. I make some large purchases. So, this scenario is not foreign to me. A quick call to my credit card company to inform them that it is, in fact, me making the large purchase and I am off to conversion. No hard feelings. It certainly is no fault of COMPANY. My credit card company in their zeal to keep the thieves at bay are preventing the suspect transaction. COMPANY could have used this error scenario to inform me.

We’re sorry, your financial institution is rejecting our request to complete this transaction.

It would have been clear to me that the issue was not with COMPANY. I would have called my credit card company, told them it was me, and been well on my way to convert!

3. You Are The Expert, Act Like It.
Most of your customers are not in your line of business, but I have a little secret for you. Their objective is the same as yours! They also want to convert! This is a shared objective and a team effort and you are the captain of the ship. You are the one who should know how to successfully accomplish your shared conversion objective and help your users make it happen. When a user falls into an exception scenario, take the reins and offer suggestions even when it might feel like their aren’t any. There are. Get creative! In the scenario I present here, COMPANY could have given me a bullet pointed list of things that I could do to get closer to accomplishing our objective.

We’re sorry, your financial institution is rejecting our request to complete this transaction. A few friendly suggestions to help us get you your [AUDIO EQUIPMENT] ASAP:

1. Contact your financial institution to inquire about the rejection. Sometimes large purchases are flagged as fraudulent and require verbal confirmation. A quick verbal “Okay” and we can get your [AUDIO EQUIPMENT] to you immediately.

2. You may also <link>create<link> an account so that we can save this order and have a representative contact you when we open.

Or maybe a little “groovier” approach. Its your site. Have fun!

Your credit card company is telling us you might be robber! J/K they aren’t letting us process this transaction, though. A few suggestions to help us get you your [AUDIO EQUIPMENT] ASAP:

1. Call your credit card company and ask about the rejection. Sometimes large purchases are flagged as fraud and require your verbal “O.K.” They are just watching your back. Call them, let them know its you, and we can get your [AUDIO EQUIPMENT] to you ASAP!

2. You can also <link>create<link> an account so that we can save this order and have a representative contact you when we open.

At the end of the day, no matter what approach you decide to take it is of paramount importance that you remember your objective: convert! This objective must drive you. And remember: your customers’ objectives are the same as yours. They, too, want to convert! Help them, help you, help them accomplish their objective in every aspect of your site. This includes your error messaging.

If you would like to discuss your conversion objectives further, shoot us a message!

Good luck out there! :{)}



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