Dry Cleaner Misses a Spot (in Their UX)

How a Sloppy User Experience Led to a Disastrous Customer Experience

Like most early adopters and folks in UX or digital marketing, I’m eager to find and examine new mobile applications. Spotting trends and exploring innovative features is exciting and helps enhance my work as a UX researcher. If my team and I can help clients more effectively communicate with, acquire, and service customers on a digital platform, we’ve done our job.

In today’s marketplace a solid user experience (UX) should lead to a positive customer experience (CX) — especially when your entire business model is based on a mobile app. But when an app cuts corners on its UX, the results can be an epic fail in terms of CX.

My personal UX / CX misadventure

A few months back it became painfully evident that my local dry cleaning options in Brooklyn just weren’t cutting it. One local cleaner ran their business like it was 1985 using a perforated note pad for tickets. While another closed abruptly without providing its customers an opportunity to pick up their clothes, resulting in two of my dress shirts disappearing forever. It was time for a change!

I recalled a few ads for a new app-based dry cleaning service that picks up your clothes when the user sets the schedule. Looking into the service a bit further, I also noted that as a user, I was allowed to opt-in for “green” detergents, track each stage of the cleaning process, and when my freshly cleaned garments were ready, I was able to schedule delivery to my door at a time that suited me. I’d seen their trucks scurrying around my neighborhood so why not give them a try.

I had a few dress shirts that needed to be cleaned, so I downloaded the app and signed up, quickly entering my credentials and a few other registration specifications. At my requested pick-up time their driver showed up with a nice blue bag complete with a UPC scanner. I was impressed — hallelujah for my new tech-savvy dry cleaners!

Dry cleaning app nirvana quickly spirals into disaster

After a few more orders, over the next several weeks, I sent in a suit. As I’m a traveling consultant, my projects tend to have me on the road quite often, and nearly 90 days had passed before I realized that I hadn’t actually scheduled a delivery time for my suit. Additionally, I realized that I had not received any reminder notifications from this company about my suit still being in their possession. So, I figured I’d jump on solving this as soon as possible.

I launched the app and tried to schedule a delivery, but it just wouldn’t let me complete that action. As I looked for a customer service number, I finally realized why I had never received an email from this company — I had mistyped my email address during registration! Yes, even mobile savvy pros get fat thumbs sometimes, so my bad in that aspect of the story. But here’s where the sloppy UX design came into play.

There are two easy steps to implement best practices for registration & sign-up forms:

1) Make users confirm their email address with a required second entry field and error check to match

2) Send users an email confirmation with a link that brings them back to their website or app to complete their registration loop and login

The mobile app-based cleaners had neither of these, and I never noticed my typing mistake. That’s why I wasn’t receiving any emails from them.

Creating a registration form that is short and quick is fine however cutting corners may significantly impact your confirmed customer acquisition rates. Our team has seen site registration rates go from 7% to 32% by implementing a sign up form with improved field sizes, error checking, formatting examples for phone numbers and passwords, and better copy to explain next steps.

Poor CX made a bad situation even worse

It had been 90 days since I’d sent in my suit, and their company policy was to donate (or, throw out) any garments that were not picked up after 90 days — this was no joke! By the time I was able to get one of their service reps on the phone, my suit was either at Goodwill, or already in the trash.

The rep actually said to me, “we tried to email you but it kept bouncing back.” Any intelligent company who wants to keep a customer would get on the phone or send me a text message since they did have multiple ways of contacting me, including my phone number and street address. During the 90 days I never received an alternate notification stating that I needed to schedule delivery of my suit. This lack of good customer service is a retention and customer review nightmare for any company — especially a startup whose entire business model is based on their digital relationship with customers. After a dozen calls and emails, I was finally able to negotiate some compensation for my loss, but the entire experience has no doubt left me pretty disappointed.

Lessons learned

The lesson from this example is that simple, but highly effective UX best practices would have prevented this entire episode, and the cleaners would still have a happy customer. If you are running any form of web-based business, it’s up to you to understand and account for the accuracy of the required information, and to match and validate all user registration entries with an email to close the loop.

Mistyping an email address is a mistake that happens more than we imagine, particularly on mobile app registration forms where so many companies try to keep it simple with less steps. Being a digital company means you have to pay even more attention to your UX to satisfy your CX. Having fewer steps does not always equate to a better experience. Taking the time to follow best practices and heeding user research findings well in advance of your launch will pay off for you and your customers in the long run.

Thoughts, questions or feedback are always welcome @lontaylor or First Insights

UX research & digital marketing pro with one foot in Chicago & one in NYC. Founder & Principal UX Researcher at First Insights. IxDA Chicago Local Leader.