Leslie Firlie Leslie Firlie Chief Marketing Officer and Director, Consulting - Trestle Group

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Customer Experience still has a long way to go

  • It never ceases to amaze me how some companies can get customer experience so wrong.  Despite the attention it garners in many industries, it’s stories like this one that always make me shake my head.  And although this may be a retail industry story, I think there are lessons to learn for any business.

    I recently spoke to my mother who was complaining about the awful customer service she encountered ordering some mail order skincare products.   She ordered the skincare line as a gift for me but the company shipped the order to the wrong address.  She, of course, complained because now the gift would not arrive before she traveled to visit me for the summer.  Initially, she got a very nice letter from the company offering to ship the order to another address of her choice (since she would not be home).  She provided an alternate address that would make it possible to still deliver the gift during our travels and thought the problem was solved.  However, the package never arrived at the alternate address.  She tried contacting the company by email – no response. 

    She returned back home after two months – still no package, still no response, and definitely no satisfaction.  To add insult to injury, the company sent her some sample products that were not ordered and for which they charge a standard fee when they aren’t returned by a certain interval.  However, she had opted out of this program so they weren’t allowed to send her samples or to charge her card for them.  Now she’s just furious and tells them to cancel her account and makes it clear she’ll never order anything from them again.  The sad thing is the she really liked the product and could have been an advocate but she won’t ever purchase it again because of the unbelievably poor experience. 

    Are you feeling exhausted just from reading this?  Imagine how she felt.  How in the world could any company in this day and age be so incredibly blasé’ about customer satisfaction?  They may have only seen it as one lost customer but really they lost two customers because I certainly won’t try the products now and this story is one that she is going to tell repeatedly.  They are lucky that the she isn’t using social media as an outlet and that I am kindly not mentioning the product line – although I seriously doubt the person who stuck their name on the product has a clue that the company’s order management process is so poorly constructed.

    No matter that we are in the ICT industry – you can see from this example where there are issues to address.  The first is the order management process. 

    • How are they capturing information on the shipping address? 
    • Is the process/system able to handle a primary and alternate shipping address? 

    My mother has two mailing addresses but she had only used one of them when she placed her orders.  Somehow they shipped to the alternate address, which is where the process went wrong the first time. They offered a Plan B - shipping to a different address that was not yet on record but nothing ever happened. 

    • Could a third shipping address be entered into the order management system?
    • Did the person that offered this solution have the authority to make it and/or the ability to carry out the steps to execute it?
    • Did the person offering the solution work in another department and fail to communicate it to the person doing order entry?

    There are several things that can go wrong if the “everything goes right” process hasn’t accounted for all the information that has to be captured and how that gets shared down the line.  That problem is magnified if there is no Plan B already in place – meaning someone along the customer service part of this process makes a snap decision to offer the customer a solution that the process doesn’t support.  Or maybe one department had a Plan B but didn’t ensure the other departments setup their parts in the process.  Or maybe there are some simple training issues underlying the entire chain of events.

    The final part of this talks to the value of customer retention.  Despite the mess they made along the way, they still could have offered her a complimentary product line – basically the whole order shipped to any address of her choice (to include an overseas one) at no cost and some heavy groveling to try and keep her on and maybe some concessions on shipping fees for future orders.  I don’t get the impression they wanted to work that hard.  

    Anyone with a sense of what a customer wants to experience can see more than a few opportunities to have turned this situation around but sadly they missed all of them. 

    How well has your company thought through how a customer wants to experience the order management process and what processes need to be in place to support the things that can go wrong?

    Leslie Firlie
    About Leslie Firlie Leslie Firlie works as Chief Marketing Officer and Director, Consulting at Trestle Group
    More information : www.trestlegroup.com

Comments

2 comments
  • Tony Poulos
    Tony Poulos Leslie, you are being way too polite, as usual. Please tell us the name of this disavowing company so we can all avoid dealing with them in future. Tens of thousands of non-buying telco professionals should make quite a dent in their earnings and perhaps,...  more
    22 December 2011
  • Leslie Firlie
    Leslie Firlie Now that I know that they didn't refund my mother for the unrequested products they sent her, I feel pretty justified in naming them: Cindy Crawford Meaningful Beauty. My mother has since discovered that the same products are available through Amazon at ...  more
    20 January 2012