It was the best of shoes, it was the worst of…experiences.
Every day in the Customer Experience practice at West Monroe, we think about how to help clients focus on the customer and develop strategies to change their approach to that end. When I personally encounter a bad bit of customer experience, I am therefore that much more aware of it, and am able to add it to my arsenal of cautionary tales. Take, for example, my brush with a well-known U.S.-based shoe designer and distributor. This particular shoe brand is very strong, and being a Millennial, I fully expect an effortless customer experience at all times including returns or exchanges.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. I had ordered a pair of shoes in the same size and style as a pair I already had. Weeks later, after no shipping updates, they arrived! Since they felt two whole sizes too big, they were a perfect candidate for an exchange. I filled in the form that shipped with the shoes, but despite a FAQ on the website stating that I could print a shipping label, it was nowhere to be found. With my low tolerance for contacting customer support and my excitement to get the shoes, I threw caution to the wind and shipped them back, paying for it. Fast forward 3 weeks when I received an email stating that there was an error when processing my exchange and I would be receiving a gift card for the amount. Sigh. Still no shoes.
But wait, there’s more! In the midst of this shoe debacle, I received another pair of these shoes as a gift in the same size and style! I tried to exchange them in a store but the color was only sold online. At that store, the salespeople notified me that this shoe brand had completely changed their sizing. Well that explained my issue! I went back to the website and engaged in a live chat, where I found out that the exchange policy had changed, and they now gave customers gift cards in lieu of product exchanges. Ah ha! What they had initially told me was an error was actually a midstream policy change. And what’s worse, they do offer free shipping back. The gifted shoes brought about an entirely new issue where I had to contact customer service only to find out there was a mysterious return already placed on the shoes, and there was nothing we could do (although I have them in my possession).
I’m not a negative person, so there is a silver lining here. They did credit my account with exchange shipping cost for my original pair. Another positive takeaway? This interaction is ripe with opportunities for improvement and lessons learned:
- Notify customers of policy changes. If your policies change, either notify the customer, or run concurrent business processes for a time to complete their transactions under previous policies. In short, the only way I heard about the change and received my refund was because I had a second product with which I was displeased
- Educate customers about products proactively, especially if your primary channel is online. If I had only known the sizing changed, I could have avoided both negative interactions
- Create a consistent cross and multi-channel experience. The call to customer service became necessary when I could not complete the action recommended by the live chat agent. While part of my customer goals were met by one channel, I could not complete all of my intended tasks in one channel and when I switched, the experience was disconnected
- Complete the interaction! I walked away from a month-long (so far) quest with nothing but a refund for shipping. I’m still waiting on the first gift card and have a box of too-big shoes sitting in my house
- Always have a “Plan B” that will empower channels to meet the customer need. Even if it’s a less than ideal outcome for the company, there should always be another way for a customer service agent to circumvent process to resolve customer issues. My final interaction resulted in the company saying they couldn’t do anything else for me, and they advised me to contact my friend who gave me the gift (advice that not only put the effort back on me but also put me in an awkward situation with my friend)
Customer experience matters! The level of effort required to complete my rather simple goals was neither expected nor welcomed, and it has definitely changed my perception of their brand. Although the customer service people were very friendly, it was obvious to me that their business processes were not built to accommodate different types of customers. Learn more about why effortless customer interaction matters in our recent whitepaper: