I read about a cool product called PC PhoneHome in a New York Times article called "Combating Gadget Theft" by Johanna Jainchill. A link to the NYT article is here, but you need to be a registered with the NYT to read it.
Basically PC PhoneHome is a cheap ($29.95) piece of "track and recover" software that you download onto a notebook computer (or other gadget). If your computer is stolen, you notify the people at PC PhoneHome and they stealthily monitor your unit through IP addresses to see if it is is connected to the Internet. If they find your computer somewhere on the 'Net, they tell you where and you notify authorities.
Sounded great to me. So I TRIED to buy the product.
It seems the company didn't want my business. The PC PhoneHome site made it difficult to learn about the software and nearly impossible to actually purchase it. I had my credit card ready and I wanted to give PC PhoneHome my money, but it was impossible on the first try.
I followed the directions on the PC PhoneHome site which asked me to enter an email address and password. I was told I would receive an email from the company "within seconds." I got no message. It said "If you do not receive the email from step 2, please check your spamfilter software." I checked. Still no message. Then I was told "Email sales@pcphonehome asking for a copy of the message that should have been sent to you." I did that, but nobody at "sales" contacted me.
Several days later I went through the process again. I got the information "within seconds" this time as promised, but a follow-up message about installing the software said: "Should you have any questions or problems (such as the zip file being stripped out of this message by your network security), please contact technical support at." Huh? At where? There was no contact information for technical support.
Remember, this is a product that promises to track your computer if it is stolen and contact you so it can be found. As a buyer, I was skeptical -- if the company cannot walk me through the e-commerce sales process, how can they find my notebook computer through e-technology?
Yes, I purchased the software anyway the second time around. I hope I don't ever have to test it out, but I'm glad I have it.
It is important for any company selling online to test, test, and re-test all sign-up forms, email messages and instructions for complete accuracy. Using this kind of service should be flawless. There should be no doubts in the buyers mind as they pull out a credit card.
And if you ever get a mention of your product in the New York Times or other big media outlet -- make certain everything on your site and in your e-commerce engine works perfectly. Add extra people to respond to incoming email messages and questions on the day the article appears. With coverage in a major media outlet such as the NYT, this is your best shot to break out.