Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Web Hints - Five Easy Ways to Alienate Your Customers........

In the days when I used to work in fashion mail order (designer level, you understand), and when I used to tell people what I did, a never ending comment that came back to me would be 'but I hate sending things back'. Inevitably I used to retaliate with the arguments that if you wanted something badly enough, couldn't get to it easily enough and didn't have enough time to search for something special then the choice and convenience of being able to buy without having to pay a visit to the shops far outweighed the irritation of having to pack it up if it didn't fit/suit/look as amazing as you'd hoped it would and send it back to where it came from.

It seems to me with the emergence of online that the complaint hasn't changed, although with the free returns that so many retailers are offering it has quietened down, and many retailers make it easier and easier to send things back all in the name of getting you to buy from them again. What some still amazingly don't realise is that it only takes one bad experience for you to decide never to buy from them again and, far worse, to be telling your friends who they were, what went wrong and putting them off as well.

A recent experience of mine, with a major online retailer and actually within the last 48 hours, has filled me with wonderment that I needed to write all of this in some way shape or form yet again, but it does need shouting about, over and over, until every single retailer who wants customers to buy from them again pays attention, so here it is.

1. Good customer service for any level of product, and in particular for expensive, premium products demands that you are there to answer your customer's telephone calls. On this occasion not only did I get voicemail during working hours, but said voicemail suggested that, if I was calling during working hours and no one picked up the phone, I should go away and call again. This happened five times over three days.

2. If you say you're going to do something, for a customer, do it. Finally having managed to get through this morning I was promised a call-back from someone who apparently would be able to help sort my problem out within the next few minutes. I received no call back and ended up sending a terse email asking for an immediate call. Which I then got (I can be quite stroppy on occasion, both in writing and in person, in case you hadn't guessed).

3. Don't argue with an angry customer. When I finally got my call back, the person who called me, when I suggested that, for a company of their size and stature there really should have been someone there to answer the phone, argued with me. They were very busy, she had only just got in etc etc. The only, and I mean the only thing to do if you get a frustrated and disillusioned customer on the end of the phone who has a real reason for a gripe is to apologise, placate, be charming, ask what can be done to sort the matter out. Never, never argue. It doesn't go down well.

4. At this stage youve already half lost your customer for ever, if you have any saving grace left at all it is to put matters right in a way that they will always remember, go the extra mile, go and collect the faulty jacket for goodness sake. Do not, whatever you do, make it harder for the customer by overloading them with extra things they need to do, such as fill in a form, call a courier, write down three separate tracking and invoice numbers when they're already fed up with you. Do it all for them and then send them a scented candle as a bonus. Otherwise they will, I promise you, go somewhere else next time.

5. Make returning anything to you as easy as possible. One of the reasons your customer buys from you online, apart from the fact you may have wonderful products, is because they believe that the whole process will be simple, quick and not unenjoyable. Many online retailers do now make it simple, and this is easier to do for less expensive products. I quite understand that something expensive needs to come back via courier, and that you may want to know that it's coming back, but I think to expect your customer to wait at home all day for the courier to arrive so that a return can be made is a mistake - there must be a better system.

I hope that no one has read through all of this in the hope that I'm going to name names, because I'm not and it wouldn't serve any purpose, other than probably make me feel better in the short term. In the long run it never pays - I may want to buy from them again one day, after all.

I've been bleating quite a lot on Twitter today about the folly of letting your daughter go off on travels to distant lands, not just because it's extremely expensive, but because, for some reason unlike sons (at least my sons) they can manage to miss four flights in an afternoon, lose their phone, sprain an ankle, need more cash, have their rucksack left behind by the airline, have their email go down, their new phone not work - oh I could go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that my faithful Blackberry giving up the ghost today made life much more frustrating for her, and much quieter for me. I haven't heard a cheep all afternoon. As she's in Oz, and ten hours ahead, I guess I'll be back to the bag chasing/phone company calling/cash sending tomorrow. But it's wonderfully peaceful right now...................