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Aug 2006

www.hahaha.com – You’re Better Off Laughing about It…

The ticket sales section on http://www.hahaha.com (the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal) commits at least nine serious errors that prevent users from getting the most out of their online ticket-buying experience.

Let me first say that it is not my intention to tear down this site. To the contrary; as a frequent user of these systems, I would like the people responsible for this site to be aware of the side effects of an unpleasant online ticket-buying experience:

  • a lower conversion rate;
  • a lower sales rate;
  • an increase in the number of calls to customer service for complaints and damage control (the most damaging effect, in my mind, as it reduces the availability of personnel to make sales through this channel);
  • an increase in customer service staff’s stress level, as clients who aren’t able to complete their transactions need to vent;
  • decreased confidence in the Just for Laughs Festival brand;
  • decreased customer satisfaction overall;
  • … and I could go on…

The following is a list of errors I noted on the site last week:

1. From the homepage, the user chooses the artist or show she wants to see. When the results appear, she must then choose which of that artist’s shows she wants to see (up till now, it’s clumsy…but still okay).

2. Once the show’s page appears, she must then select the date if she wishes to proceed with purchasing the ticket (without knowing if there are any tickets left (ERROR).

3. From the ticketing page, the user must again select the artist and show (ERROR).

4. On the same page, the user must select a ticket category, without the slightest indication of what the different categories mean. The user is left to deduce that the categories influence price, but the other advantages remain unknown?? (ERROR).

5. The user has no idea if there are special prices for children; she is not asked whether she has any children 12 and under (ERROR).

6. When she submits the order, the user has no idea which seats she’ll get. She hasn’t seen a map of the theatre, and has no idea how well she’ll be seated (ERROR).

7. The language around service charges on the order page itself is very incoherent. This sort of thing decreases buyer confidence. It is at this point that we start losing clients (ERROR).

8. If the user chooses to have the tickets delivered to her home, she is told that additional charges will apply, but not how much these charges will be. And yet it is easy to automatically calculate these charges. Lots of sites do it! (ERROR)

9. When I submitted my order, the confirmation page generated the following error message: “The postal code you have entered is incorrect”. And yet I had entered the postal code according to the instructions near the postal code field. I had to deduce that, contrary to the instructions, I had to put a space between the first three characters and the following three (ERROR).

10. Here’s another frustrating situation: if the user makes a mistake entering her credit card number, the system doesn’t detect it! Any user surfing a secure site (https) should be able to expect the system to perform a real-time credit card validation! What this tells me is that, if the user doesn’t realize she’s entered her credit card number incorrectly, she’ll believe her tickets have been reserved as ordered. This is, unfortunately, not necessarily the case, as her tickets may have been sold to another client between the time of the order and the time when a customer service agent contacts her to make a “real” reservation!

11. Lastly, the final confirmation message is definitely NON-STANDARD to say the least. The system tells the user she will NOT receive a confirmation email, which ALL online sales sites do!!!!! (ERROR).

I don’t know what you think, but it seems unacceptable to me that, in 2006, such business processes should be allowed to take place online.

In my case, I ordered the tickets last week. As I wasn’t supposed to receive a confirmation message, I told myself to wait until these tickets arrived at home. After a week, I had received nothing and nobody had called me, so I decided to call Just for Laughs. I was told my order was not on file; that the ordering server had crashed and lost all transactions. I then had to place an order by phone, but this was not a positive turn of events, as it was a week later and there were no good seats left.

Now put yourself in the shoes of someone from the US or France, who has purchased tickets (or who thinks he’s bought tickets) on this site, who confirms the rest of his plans for his trip…and who learns that the server crashed…

With a few simple adjustments to this site, these errors could be taken care of and the festival would boost its sales and reduce the amount of time spent on customer service calls and damage control.

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