Another Customer Story

I was in a newly opened store of a large big-box outdoor sports store, and saw an item on display that I had already decided to buy this summer. The displayed price was actually a bit less than what I had been encountering online, so I went ahead.

Unfortunately the one “in stock” on the shelf turned out to be a different model (in the wrong slot), and I didn’t complete the transaction. (A retail nightmare, where the customer clearly wants to buy a big-ticket item you thought you had, but actually didn’t.)

The salesperson behind the counter offered that I could order the item from their web site, have it shipped to the store, and I could pick it up without incurring any shipping charges. Seemed fair enough.

I went online, but the online price was higher than the in-store price. In a sort of reverse from the story I told in December, I emailed customer service and asked if they would match the in-store price for the item.

In a few minutes I got a reply, with an “Incident Number” that said they would, but I would have to call in the order to the 800 number.

All well and good.

I called, and of course “catalog sales” had to refer me to customer service.

Customer service, in turn, had no way to look up the “Incident Number” on the email. “I don’t have any way of referring to that…” (Yeah, go ahead and tell the customer what you can’t do.)

I was referred to someone else (in email? I don’t know). He could not look up the number either, so I read the email exchange back to him. He honored the price, took the order, and it is on the way.

But really?

What is the “incident number” even for if nobody can reference it? In this day and age of networked and cross-linked everything…. what can I say? Perhaps my old I.T. background showing here.

Bottom line:

Turn around and face your systems from the customer’s perspective. Spend some time in the chalk circle. Think through how your process responds to unusual situations.

If a customer refers to something that you should know about your own process, but don’t, there is a kaizen opportunity here. You have an obstacle in the way of smooth seamless customer service. What concrete steps(s) will move you toward eliminating that barrier and smoothing things out?

5 Replies to “Another Customer Story”

  1. I am amazed how up to date we try to be to the public when many of our internal systems are antiquated. I see external Facebook pages, Chat Rooms, etc while internally organizations are still communicating through email. Your story is not surprising, in fact it is common if not the norm.

  2. Have a very similar experience with a cable company that we upgraded service with. They couldn’t make the internal connections within the time frame we requested so they canceled the workorder and our current phone service and internet with it. Took 4 calls over 24 hours to get it sorted out and was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had.

  3. “I emailed customer service and asked if they would match the in-store price for the item.

    In a few minutes I got a reply, with an “Incident Number” that said they would, but I would have to call in the order to the 800 number.”

    The “Incident Number” was probably just an internal tracking number for the email responding customer service department- not any of the company sales functions.

    Remember that “sales” functions do not typically equal “customer service.”

    You probably would also gotten an “incident number” if you had emailed to complain about the store’s parking lot having too much litter.

  4. I don’t think anybody has difficulty understanding the mechanics of the event.

    Does that make it any less stupid?

  5. I see these types of customer service issues ALL the time. I recently spoke directly with a CEO of a very large anti-virus company about frustrations that I had with their web site and the relationship between their service model and actual business model of the product. I ended up sending him directly a multi slide powerpoint with screen shots highlighting how ridiculous it seemed from the customers perspective. It was as if not one single person at his company, including himself, had ever tried to use their own site as a customer. After he saw the slides he totally understood what I was saying. I was shocked to hear directly from the CEO and it was refreshing to see that he genuinely cared and planned to fix it. I just wish the leaders would act like the customer once in a while.

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