Truth And Dare: FedEx

Editor’s note: This week kicks off a new bi-weekly site review series by Jason Sutton. Called Truth And Dare, Jason reviews a company’s interactive media and challenges it to live up to its potential.

Says Jason, “It is one thing to have a nice looking web site; it is another to have a web site that has great information and design; but it is even more important to have a site that reflects your customer’s needs and those of the marketplace. It is my hope to be able to help people build better interactive and traditional media programs by taking a sensible approach to interactive media.”

So why Truth And Dare? Well since you asked, because Jason tells the truth about a site, and dares the site operators to fix its obvious errors.

This issue: Federal Express

My Siamese-twin friends, Drag and Drop, recently had a near-death experience with Federal Express. They’d just finished eating a late lunch at the finest Taco Bell in the area. Drag suddenly froze, and his life then flashed before his eyes.

Drag says to Drop, “Remember that big can of Spam we promised we would send to Vito the Shark?”

Drop responded, “You mean the one that we promised to him if he would float us a couple more weeks on the loan? And, if we didn’t send it to him by tomorrow morning, he would come bash our heads in if didn’t we sent it to him right away?”

(They lock eyes in a blank stare of horror for a full 5 seconds.)

It is a funny thing, being Siamese twins. It gets really funny when the twins want to go different places at the same time. But when they realized that their fettered heads relied on them shooting that Spam to Cleveland by noon tomorrow, they ran out of Taco Bell like the Devil himself was sticking them in their butts with a red-hot poker.

They did a Dukes of Hazard into their turbo-charged Yugo, and Drag drove while Drop worked the gears. They did a Starsky and Hutch into the 7-11 up the street, jumped back in the car, and headed home to find the nearest FedEx drop-off location.

After running over a few pedestrians and doing the obligatory broken-bridge jumps, they got home and packaged the Spam. Visions of Vito at the sporting goods store picking out a new Louisville Slugger danced through their heads the whole time but it clearly seemed that a solution was within sight.

Then the Fed Ex site reared its ugly head.

Not that it wasn’t pleasing to the eyes, which it was. Slowly, their relief turned to utter terror.

Instead of being whisked to the FedEx home page, they were asked to select the country of origin. This wouldn’t be so bad if they had a T1 line to accommodate all the pretty, slowly-loading graphics that were clogging their 28.8 modem line worse than the dessert line at an Elvis impersonator’s convention.

Finally, they started to load the FedEx home page that would allow them to select the drop-off locator and find the location of the nearest box. But the home page was still slowly loading all the pretty graphics, making their head hurt twice as badly, as they thought about the bodily harm that would come to them from Vito.

At last, the twins finally arrived at the drop-off locator. They found the drop-off location near them and printed it out. The map looked funny, and they didn’t know the exact location of the drop-box. But they figured that they would be able to find it easily enough.

The map directed them to a certain intersection. But that intersection, in fact, did not have the drop-box that the map promised. The directions were not explicit enough.

They were dead. No hope existed. No hope at all.

But wait, there was a FedEx truck off in the distance. A chase scene ensued. After much flashing of the lights and arm waving out the window, the FedEx driver took the package and rode off into the sunset.

And here’s the happy ending: Vito called the next day and said he enjoyed the Spam.

Truth And Dare:

Drag and Drop’s experience is not too far from the truth.

FedEx has built its entire reputation on being on-time, all-the-time, so it seems counter-intuitive to make customers wait for information, only to have inaccurate information delivered. FedEx needs to offer more specific directions, telling consumers exactly where any given drop box is.

The up-front country selection pre-page is unnecessary, at best. Allow visitors to access the most crucial information first, then allow them to visit the sites of other countries. People want information, not roadblocks.

The FedEx site design is nicely designed and constructed, but it could use some lightening for the people that are in a real hurry. FedEx, after all, has speed as the cornerstone of its company. Kill — or at least minimize — the pretty graphics and the hurdles.

Offer users a text-only version of the site to allow them to access the information speedily. Don’t make them wade through the graphics-heavy content. In fact, that doesn’t allow them to get their package out any quicker.

The site overall carries through the quality and feeling of FedEx. But with just a few tweaks, it could be even better.

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