How we predicted and prevented a client’s shipping nightmare

One of our clients’ sites uses a shopping cart with real-time shipping calculations from the US Postal Service. The shipping module adds up the weight of the order and phones home to the USPS to ask how much it will cost, then displays the result to the customer prior to checkout.

Last November, the Postal Service announced that they were going to raise rates on January 22, 2012, add a number of new service classes to Priority Mail and change up the parcel classes. I knew from similar experiences in 2009 and 2010 that this would break the shipping module and shut down her shopping cart until the software company fixed it.

In mid-December I sent an inquiry to the software company explaining this potential problem, reminding them what happened the last two times, and asking if they would have a patch for the shipping prior to January 22. The company rep responded that “it would update itself” and there was no need to worry.

I was not so sure.

I ran reports on the customer’s transactions for the previous six months, calculated what her average shipping was as percentage of the total order cost, and suggested that we temporarily change it from real-time calculation to percentage of order until the modules could be patched. She agreed it was a good idea. I made the change on January 21.

On January 22, the shipping module broke because of all the new service classes, just as I had predicted. The shopping cart software support forum went completely haywire with panicked people whose shopping carts suddenly would not work, while my client sailed smoothly through. It took a week for the patches to be posted. I patched and turned real-time back on, and she didn’t lose a single sale or have a single confused customer. It even worked well on international shipments.

Proactive customer service: one of our specialties at 2FishWeb.

How can we help you before your next problem strikes?