When Your Online Presence is No Longer the Business

There's nothing more powerful than being able to make a decent living while sitting around in your jammies or putting the hours YOU want.  However, there's a lot that can happen during the course of freelancing or choosing to work at home.  Throw in the COVID pandemic and you may be rethinking your career path entirely.

Not long ago, I chose to use a masseuse service for personal and physical reasons.  For years, I'd seen one young lady inside a luxury-style day spa who appeared to be happy.  Even better, I learned she was the owner.  I never entered or made a live appointment but in checking out her website, it kind of looked like she had some decent offerings.

Even her Yelp profile was 4/5 stars and for this type of business where rough hands can kill everything, this was impressive.  According to commenters, her prices were also lower than most in the area.  So I make an appointment and that's when the question marks pop up in my head.

The navigation on the site was terrible like one person made the lovely animated home page but a different shopping cart package was used. More like a cheap one because her logo disappeared and the services listed on different pages couldn't be found.  I just got my website creator certificate and have a degree in Merchandising so I'm a little picky about these things.  My experience in e-commerce also lets me know that corner-cutting may be a problem for me as the customer.

So, Los Angeles County has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic...along with the riots and looting.  Since this location was inside one of the largest malls worldwide, I knew that she may have limited hours or maybe have a separate location ideal for social distancing.  The first time I tried to make an appointment, everything was shut down.  However, in my persistence, I tried again two weeks later and got confirmed to see her at a later date.

Remember the janky site I mentioned?  It seems that the services I selected (AND paid for) on one page didn't transfer to the appointment section.  If I were to select services, I'd have to pay again so I left it blank.  I kept that in mind until the day I received an automated appointment reminder but then it got worse.
Exactly 14 hours before my appointment, I received a call from a young lady telling me my appointment was canceled.  No option to reschedule was offered and the phone went click.  The next day, I called to leave a message about the services paid for and the owner returned the call to say she didn't know what I was talking about. Errr?

So after pulling up my bank statement and verifying the charges, she asks me to send her a copy of the invoice.  Then she groans about having to write a check since I don't have Zelle (well BOO freaking HOO).  I did everything asked and she hasn't confirmed anything after three days.  Guess her massages are climax-worthy because her operations suck!

This may have been an extreme example but assuming other things make up for her lack of business etiquette, the problem is her online presence.  E-commerce is supposed to be convenient for everyone but, in this case, it created more work for both parties.  Would things have been better if she's integrated QuickBooks with her appointment system?  Probably but I'll never tell her.😇

While I don't wish any woman to lose her business, she may want to make some adjustments that will allow for smoother future transactions.  Here are a few takeaways that may pertain to your operation -

  1. Choose an internet host that offers a compatible appointment and payment system.  PayPal is my go-to for invoicing and receipts and more than a decade in, I've had no problem from buyers.  If that's not possible, be sure to confirm appointments manually to avoid mixups.
  2. Go with a website design that's more functional and less fluff.  Floating images are nice but in this era, people just want information first.  They want to know the costs before committing to giving out their personal information.  And continuity would be nice also.
  3. Don't let clients know that something is missing.  During our brief conversation, she told me that she's been separated from her computer (YIKES) and nothing is in order...but the spa is reopening next week.  Always work on a backup so that business remains handled, even if your shop is destroyed by an earthquake.
In short, just be about business.  We all get attached to little things, like that cheap website package that we started out with, but the main problem with most startups is not knowing how to grow.  People take on large jobs or find their current customer base is growing and get lost.  Some things, like efficient labor, don't cost as much as you may assume.  Even if you have to barter or get a college student/new grad to work for cheap, its better than settling for poor quality.  Most importantly, if you sweat the small stuff (like the $66 dollars the lady owes me today), you may be shooting yourself in both feet.  Makes it a little harder to aim higher...right?