We’re shopping for a larger car for some reason. (Cough. Twins. Cough.) And our favored option is the Honda Odyssey. We picked our color and model and then used a number of websites, including Honda and Edmonds, to request competitive quotes from dealers in our general area.
Honda’s website had a number of brilliant features, including:
- After selecting trim level and moving forward to pick color, my wife went back to double-check something and inadvertently reset the trim level to default. So all the quotes we got were for the wrong trim level. (The dealers dealt with this just fine, including some asking if we’d possibly picked the wrong trim level right off the bat.)
- Each of the dealers, or possibly Honda, then asked us to fill in a short “5 minute” questionnaire on the quality of service received. First of all, doing the same “5 minute” survey four times is no-one’s idea of fun. Second, the third question in the survey required me to go and check the timestamps of the e-mail responses, and the fifth required me to carefully parse each response to see what it contained. After trying to skip the third question (mandatory) and seeing what would be involved in answering the fifth, I deleted all the requests from my inbox. Honda, if you’re reading this, I guarantee writing this blog entry will be quicker than answering your stupid questionnaire once.
What is it about car companies? Honda.com is some kind of idiotic placeholder site from which you have to click a link to get through to the site you really wanted. Yes, I know Honda makes Acura, but if I wanted Acura.com guess what â€” I’d have typed acura.com into my freaking address bar. (Some of the camera and electronics companies are even stupider. Canonusa.com? WTF? It’d be one thing if some domain squatter had grabbed canon.com, but no.)
Part of the problem of course is that there’s no .com.usa, so .com serves both as .com.usa and “worldwide” .com. Even so, surely these guys have enough money hire some halfwit web developer to automatically direct folks to the correct country’s information by default, and make it seamless for 99.9% of people, versus retarded for 100% of people.
Edmonds.com, as far as we can tell, simply decides you want the EX-L trim level. Um, thanks. Again, not a problem that couldn’t be fixed in a few minutes (OK hours, it’s corporate America). It’s not like Edmonds.com has a huge database of car makes and models just lying around.
I guess this all falls under “usability issues I’ve been brought into contact with by having babies”. As a final aside, two of the quotes we got via Honda’s website were identical to the cent. (This is on a ~$25,000 item being discounted below “invoice price” â€” it’s worth noting that dealer invoice prices are a laughable fiction these days.) So I’m guessing that either the two dealerships in question are owned by the same company, or that they coincidentally use the same formula to calculate their prices. (Both prices are exclusive of local taxes, which â€” this being the USA â€” vary randomly based on location, wind direction, and phase of moon. The furniture chain we frequent â€” a whole other blog post â€” manages to charge sales tax based on its warehouse’s location which, in a stroke of genius, is apparently a higher tax area than downtown Birmingham or Tuscaloosa.)
So, how to wind this rant up? If you’re a multibillion dollar company with a reputation for bleeding edge technology, such as Honda or Canon or Nikon or whatever, it seems to me that it behooves you to get your house in order with respect to moderately dumb stuff, like automated emails, online surveys, and having your web site residing at the more obvious domain. In order to get a clue, consider this simple little factoid. If you impulse buy a bunch of $0.99 songs from iTunes in the course of a few minutes (e.g. you hear a song, look it up, buy it, think of another song you heard recently, look it up, buy that, etc.) then Apple automagically consolidates the transactions and sends you a single receipt. Oh, and apple.com.au gets you to apple.com, not the other way around.
It’s not rocket science.