Customer service the long, wrong way
I recently had a very telling experience with a high-end retailer — a store known for its exemplary customer service and where I spend an embarrassingly large amount of money. The journey began with an online purchase of Marco Bicego earrings that, unfortunately, upon receipt, were too big for me. So, I decided to return them, and that’s when the saga began.
I called the customer service department to get a return label so that I could send the earrings back. The customer service representative explained to me that the order had already been cancelled and that my credit card was refunded. I informed her that I was looking at the earrings at that very moment and that my online credit card transactions showed that I had not been refunded. She was baffled.
I asked to speak to a supervisor who explained that the earrings I ordered online had been shipped from one of their stores because it had not been in stock at the warehouse. She went on to explain that when an online order is shipped from a store, the retailer has to cancel the online order and place a new order with that store. She also told me that it has been difficult to integrate the online and point-of-sales systems and she didn’t expect that it would happen anytime soon.
When four weeks after returning the earrings I did not see a credit back on my card, I called customer service again and asked to speak to a supervisor. She told me that the earrings were at the warehouse; they need to be shipped to the store and the store needs to provide me a credit. After more than a dozen calls, I saw a refund on my credit card.
But there is more. Several weeks later a supervisor called me to relay that, as a good customer, they were offering me a $100 gift card. I told her, "Given that I am a very valuable customer who does way too much business with you every year, I thought you would have treated me differently through this process." She was very quick to respond, "We treat all of our customers the same; it doesn’t matter whether they spend a dollar or ten thousand." That’s a nice egalitarian comeback, but it was the wrong answer for me.
Should retailers and CPG companies train their customer facing staff to compensate for inefficiencies in their internal IT systems? How can retailers use customer interactions as a way to listen, learn and build long-lasting relationships with customers?