Since everyone loves talking about things in 1% and 99% nowadays, I’ll talk to you about the 1% of the [user/client] experience. It’s that little bit of the experience which can ruin everything, even if the other 99% is perfect. Case study: online shopping.

I started really experiencing online shopping when I went to the US and I have been doing a lot of that ever since. The main website for this was of course, Amazon.com. I’ve pretty much never had any problems with them directly and any problems I did have, they resolved excellently. I’m not going to lie, I’m a fan.

After moving to the UK, I was obviously excited and expecting to continue doing the same thing on Amazon.co.uk. Surely there are some regional differences; some are good (no minimum purchase for free shipping), some are not so good (VAT always applies as opposed to sales tax in the US), but overall it’s more or less the same experience. Or rather, it’s the same experience until you press the submit order button.

In the US, Amazon deals with the big fish in shipping. While I may recall an exception or two, most of the stuff from Amazon came to me by USPS, UPS or FedEx. And though I had some gripes with UPS and I know the tubes are full with complaints about FedEx, these guys do their job pretty well, at least in my experience.

In the UK, Amazon seems to deal with a lot of other couriers… which unfortunately do not live up to expectations. I’ll give you an example. An order made about 1-2 weeks before Christmas was delivered by Yodel after mid-January. Not that they let us know anything was wrong, the website suggested the package is out for delivery pretty much everyday from the scheduled delivery day (which was a few days before Christmas) to the day it actually got delivered. For all that I know, it may still be telling us the same thing.

CityLink is another lovely. I missed their first delivery (on a Thursday) so I went online and rescheduled it for a Monday, when I was going to be home anyway. On Monday, wanting to make sure everything’s on track, I went online and to my surprise the website didn’t indicate that the package is on its way towards me. So I called them up where I was informed that unfortunately the depot “overlooked my request”. I was then given the option to reschedule again or to go pick it up (which I was told is only “a short drive away” from where I live). Apparently if you’re a CityLink customer, it is generally assumed that you are also a car owner.

I think Amazon is great. I think the website does what it’s supposed to do pretty well, I think the experience is good. I previously wrote about Amazon having some of the best customer service I ever interacted with. It’s not like they sent me a box of caviar and vacuumed my carpet, but rather that they did what I expected them to do in a fairly efficient and respectful manner… which is what I think all customer services should do, but it almost never happens. In other words, I genuinely believe that Amazon is doing mostly everything right. But this one little piece called delivery is broken in the UK and unfortunately, this is the piece that bridges the online world with the physical product that I expect to get, so even though it’s such a small thing, it devalues the entire experience. No matter what improvements Amazon would do on the online part, it cannot compensate for this one weak link.

There are many similar examples of such “1%” weak links. Security and protection of data comes to mind. Badly designed or unresponsive interfaces also. Every application, every product, every business has something of this sort and it should always be a priority to identify what this is and to focus efforts and resources on making it as close to perfect as can be. Otherwise, all the work on the 99% may not matter.