Going to the Movies versus User Experience Design

Every piece of your marketing should work to address your customers pain points. Your website is no different, yet so many sites’ ordering systems create many new pain points. I discovered first hand how bad user experience design and lack of troubleshooting can turn a fun time into a hassle.

We planned to take my dad to see a movie at a theater that was a half-way point for both of us— about 30 miles or 45 minutes of Dallas driving time. I ordered tickets online through the large national theater chain’s corporate site. I checked out before I realize I had purchased tickets for Saturday instead of Sunday. Realizing my mistake, I checked the site and email confirmation to see if there was link to exchange the tickets for another time, or at the very least cancel the order and start over again. Despite not having a link, there were two phone numbers listed.

The first number that I called was customer service which informed me that business hours were Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. Since it was Saturday, I was prompted to leave a message and someone would call me back during business hours. Considering that the movie we wanted to see was on Sunday, and the tickets I mistakenly purchased were for Saturday, having someone call on Monday wouldn’t exactly solve the problem. I also began to question the logic of the customer service hour times considering the peak business hours for movie theaters are Friday after 5pm to Sunday afternoon. Who exactly is the customer service line helping?

I called the second number which connected me to the theater. The attendant said they could make the switch, but I’d have to come to the theater’s box office. Making an exchange over the phone wasn’t an option. I asked if we could get there early on Sunday to make the switch, and they said that it had to be taken care of on the same day of the original tickets meaning I had to drive to the theater which was 45 minutes to an hour from my house, even though I’d be making that drive the very next day. I explained this to them, and they said it was their corporate policy that exchanges could only be made in person. This policy is likely based off reporting box office sales at an individual theater, especially since retailers generally offer a 30-day return policy on items purchased.

Begrudgingly, I drove to the theater to make the exchange which consisted of the box office person printing out the original tickets, asking me what time and day to exchange them for, and printing out three new tickets with three refund receipts for the old ticket. Since I never showed an ID or credit card, I still question why this couldn’t be handled over the phone. All he needed was the confirmation number which I could have easily given over the phone to make the exchange. I guess they really wanted to see my not so smiling face while making the exchange.

I ordered the tickets online as a convenience from having to arrive extra early on Sunday. Convenience turned into inconvenience when the theater’s website didn’t offer a way to make changes to an order — a standard to most ecommerce sites. Inconvenience turned into outright hassle when I had to drive 30 miles to the theater to exchange the tickets in person.

I realize that the national theater chain has gone to great links to make sure that their website and business runs great from management’s perspective, so much so that the customer experience isn’t even a consideration. Instead they should focus on how easily you can make transactions for the most common customer needs. How about allowing a way to change orders on the site, someone answering the customer service phones during peak movie watching times, or allowing changes to online orders over the phone with the theater box office. Each step in this transaction made my experience more frustrating.

User experience design focuses on how a user interacts with your website or product, and applies this knowledge to make the overall experience intuitive, reliable and in some cases enjoyable. Take the time to test your site from your customer’s perspective. You’ll be surprised what mistakes arise from a confusing web interface or your user’s lack of attention in my case. Having a workflow to make these mistakes easy to correct can mean the difference between keeping or losing a customer.

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