Are You Giving Customers First World Problems?

A dear friend of mine left the comforts of Canada a few years ago to take up life on African soil, and I enjoy following her adventures and experiences through her blog. One of her posts titled Finally Some Good Customer Service? got me thinking about how the Western customer-is-always-right business culture is not practiced everywhere.

“In Canada (and other developed countries), the salesperson or business owner depends on the customer to bring in their income. Therefore, their greatest interest is to serve the customer in a way so that they will keep coming back and buying their products. They value the customer because they realize that, without the customer, there would be no business.

Kenya is the complete opposite.

The business owner in Kenya often has the mentality that they are providing a service to their customers since, without them, their customers won’t have what they need to survive…

…(for example) I go up to the desk to pay for my item. I hand the cashier (often the person who owns the business) a large bill. He doesn’t have any change (which is always the case in Kenya). He then looks at me as if it is MY problem that HE doesn’t have change for me. He expects me to start rummaging through my purse to see if I can muster up enough coins while he sits there and stares at me impatiently. I usually drop what I wanted to purchase and leave the store to find someone else who has change.”

She also clarifies this is not everyone in Kenya, (she is in love with the country and its people). But this would never happen in the West (think of the Yelp reviews!) But this did get me thinking of all the ways Western online shops expect customers to remedy problems that occur in the buying process:

  • Zero results found in site search without showing refinement options or near-matches
  • Dead 404 pages without links back into the site or a way to contact customer service
  • Checkout errors without clear, proximal callouts on how to fix
  • Carts that clear contents after closing the browser (no use of persistent cookies)
  • Slow email customer service response time, sometimes exceeding 48 hours

How does your customer service measure up? If you missed our post last November, we have a downloadable customer service scorecard you can use to identify the gaps on your site.

And while we’re at it, let’s not sweat our first world problems. (Can’t see video? View this post on

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2 Responses to “Are You Giving Customers First World Problems?”

  1. William Winston says:

    Try to buy a Strippen Karte from a newstand in Amsterdam using a 20€ note!

  2. Your Kenya story about customer service reminded me of the opposite and the most supreme service I have ever received anywhere in the world throughout my life (60+ years). Long story short.

    I was in Victoria on Vancouver Island and I got caught in rush-hour traffic (Yes, they do have such a thing) on my way to the airport, where I had to catch my flight to Vancouver International and then on to Toronto for a meeting the following morning. Having been snarled up in the traffic and consequently late, I decided to take the hire car up to and park outside the main terminal building and rush in an explain to Budget Car Rental that I needed to be on that flight.

    The car hire company, to whom I owed several hundred dollars, passed over settlement but had their desk rep come around the counter, grab my case and ran me over to the check-in desk for the airline. I got there seconds later (panting excessively) to hear the rep tell the check-in clerk to hold the flight to Vancouver as there was one more passenger. The check-in clerk telephoned the control tower to pass on the urgent message, luggage check-in was dispensed with and I was rushed over to the exit doors out towards the plane. Our path to the doors was hampered by relatives of passengers waving goodbye to the flight, but we got outside at the point when I heard the sound of the aircraft engines wind down to tick-over and to see a mobile gangway being brought back to the aircraft.

    As I hurried up the steps the aircraft door was opened briefly to let me on and the stewardess welcomed me aboard with a bright smile, holding out her hand to take my suit that I was carrying on a handle, in order to hang it up. I was then shown to my seat and we were away.

    Needless to say, that when I returned to Victoria Intenational after an absence of one week, I made my way to the hire company and paid what I owed them and gave them more business. They thought nothing about their actions and regarded this as normal for them, despite the fact I might have returned to England and they might never have seen me again, as well as losing a lot of money that I owed. I have never used any other hire company since.

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