You can't help but wonder what some companies are thinking when it comes to electronic commerce. All too often, it feels like companies think all they have to do is create the electronic equivalent of a cash register and watch the money roll in. But when something inevitably goes wrong, everybody is somehow shocked to discover that nobody was actually monitoring the process.
The latest such fiasco involves British Airways, which was surprised to discover that it had been selling $40 roundtrip fares from India to the U.S. via its Web site. BA is not the first airline to do something like this, but rather than eat the costs, it looks like BA is going to take the public relations hit. The company is attempting to cancel all the fares booked at the $40 rate and telling customers they need to rebook. Whether BA can pull that off remains to be seen.
The bigger question is: How does something like this happen? It's pretty clear that there is no system in place governing the transaction process. In an ideal world, there should be some sort of automated policy in place that would have shut down the transactions once it became apparent that an aberration in the form of a high volume of $40 transactions was suddenly taking place on the Web site.
There are far too many companies that have what amounts to an immature approach to e-commerce on the Web. They have set up a basic system, but it's nothing like what they have in place for monitoring real-world transactions. If a sales representative started selling a whole lot of $40 transactions via the call center, the system more than likely would take immediate notice.
Unfortunately, there will be a lot more events like the BA ticket fiasco before companies start to figure out that the technology, known as business transaction management (BTM) software, that prevents this kind of thing from happening already exists.