The Pre-Order Proposition: Problem Solved?
By Amanda F. Batista, Associate Editor
A few weeks ago, I shared in a blog post my experience with an online retailer that did not honor its pre-order promise. It was frustrating that, after nearly eight weeks of waiting for my order, I received no response to my customer service inquiries. The problems I was facing as a customer started to pile up. Not only was I without the merchandise I ordered in the first place, I never received the promised confirmation number to track my order, and was unable to get in touch with someone who could help me. It became clear that after weeks of waiting, there was an oversight.
After many ignored emails, one of my calls to the customer service line reached a gentleman who ensured me he could help address the problem and get my merchandise on its way to me. I was thrilled to have finally gotten in touch with someone helpful. He then told me there was an issue with my credit card, so the order never actually went through.
I couldn’t understand why the online store didn’t have an effective system in place to notify a customer that her order was not confirmed. This is why I never got a confirmation number. But this gentleman assured me that he would take care of the order, and that he’d overnight express it at no charge.
Fast forward three days later (two days after the promised shipment date), and I still was waiting for the order. I called the same number and asked for that same helpful customer service rep, and was connected instead to a supervisor.
Long story short, my credit card did not go through again. The problem here isn’t so much my credit card (is there such a thing as mag-stripe abuse?), it was that I was being ignored as a customer. (Obviously this retailer had no commitment to to mining the voice of the customer.)
Apparently there was a disconnect in the system’s ability to notify the customer service team, never mind the actual customer. I took up my grievance with the supervisor and explained that while I understand errors happen, as a customer, my order expectations have simply not been fulfilled. This same credit card issue oversight — which happened twice now — is not a viable excuse.
The supervisor, though friendly and seemingly attentive, told me that I probably didn’t get to confirm my order over the phone the previous time because the “call might have gotten dropped” and the rep perhaps did not get the chance to confirm my order.
That’s when I got really upset. Now I’m a customer still without merchandise, sans an order confirmation, who now is being lied to? I called him on it, telling him that in my conversation with the former rep, I did receive a verbal confirmation, then we exchanged friendly goodbyes before deliberately hanging up. The supervisor then offered to personally handle my order to guarantee confirmation and send me a coupon code for a free item of my choosing to make up for the whole debacle. Two days later the merchandise was at the door. Alas!
There are lessons learned as a customer, but even more telling are the takeaways for online retailers who should reevaluate their commerce strategies to meet customer demands. Specifically:
- Don’t leave me hanging! Make sure your system is “connecting the dots” of customer orders so that you can be in touch when necessary and optimize customer relationship management (CRM).
- Take responsibility! When you aren’t satisfying a customer’s needs, for whatever reason, take responsibility and provide a viable option to solve the problem — then honor it!
- Give me an offer I can’t refuse! When you’ve failed more than once to handle an order correctly, present the customer with an additional offer to demonstrate show your commitment to her business. For me, the option to choose another item on the eTailer’s dime did soften the blow of the whole incident!
Follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaF_Batista