We have a great example of online shopping gone really badly for you to peruse. It involves a store located outside of the country, a local carrier and a shipment not delivered. We also have twelve lessons learned for you to ponder to avoid making similar mistakes and thereby causing the customer experience to reach an appalling low. Let’s jump right into this first case of ours!
There were never any problems with this company before during years of shopping with them. When buying across borders it obviously takes longer for things to arrive, but even with normal instead of express shipping it usually has taken a reasonable amount of time.
In December for the first time the company sold inventory that they didn’t have. Stock seemed to be okay when putting items in the shopping cart and nothing was out of the ordinary during payment either. After a few weeks of waiting the parcel finally arrived, but not everything was included. There had been no notification of refund until then.
Also, instead of delivering conditioner as ordered, there was a bottle of shampoo. Granted, there had been a duo pack of shampoo in the order, but this switch had not been notified and approved prior to packing. It was assumed that the exchange was all right with the customer (huge no-no). The conditioner was more expensive than the shampoo, so the company actually refunded too little an amount.
A New Order
In early January a new order was placed for the missing items. Everything seemed to be fine this time in terms of inventory management, but the shipping cost had increased significantly with several euros.
Once dispatch confirmation arrived via email, it was clear that a new carrier had been chosen. We have never heard of this one before so either it is a small or a new one. Hoping for the best then.
When the tracking code was supplied, it seemed that the shipment had taken longer than usually to arrive in Finland. What also stood out was an incorrect post code, but information changes all the time along with new updates so we didn’t pay attention to it.
Today the notification arrived of delivered parcel. In another city nearly 20 km away. The tracking-code web page also informed that the customer had picked the location. Why would a SmartPost box nearly 20 km away from home be picked, when the shipping address specifically was home? There is a number of locations nearby to pick parcels up, including two post offices, a gas station, a couple of kiosks, and several SmartBoxes, but none had been chosen as final destination.
We contacted the post office via chat online. They were helpful in that they told us how they can’t do a single thing, not even when they have keys to SmartPost boxes. It is still unclear exactly who–postal system or private carrier–has put the shipment in the box, but it doesn’t matter at this point.
The carrier website and emails were a dead end. Information for neither phone number, contact email nor online chat had been provided.
Next the seller was contacted. They babbled something incoherent, indicating that only part of the message had been read. To add insult to injury, the message was full of fake caring of the copy-paste type.
A string of messages back and forth commenced. Each time a new name popped up in the message footer and each time the percentage of standard nonsense was as high. Their conclusion was that nothing was to be done on their part even after I had asked them to confirm my shipping address.
The seller took no responsibility for having messed up the order. They didn’t register what was being said: that their chosen carrier is lying to them about delivering and instead dumping orders in locations convenient for them.
We ended up asking they would cancel the order. ”We can’t cancel. We can ask the delivery to be returned.” Fantastic nitpicking under the circumstances, when the context should be clear. Only when suggesting we could escalate the case with our credit-card company was there any sort of genuine response.
Below we will present a list of thoughts on how to improve your customer experience in online shopping in particular. Customer service can seem a bit fluid and undefined as a topic, but our best advice is to think from your perspective as a customer.
How do you like to feel and be treated? What impresses you the most? Have your family and friends shared some fantastic feedback lately from their own experiences? Which brands do you admire and why? When you think about the shopping process from start to finish, what do you find valuable to know at particular points of it?
1. Customer Service
Even if you outsource your Customer Service department, they are part of your brand. Make sure they act accordingly, including visual messaging style and tone of voice.
2. Messaging In General
Do not copy-paste mindlessly when responding to customer inquiries. Make sure your copy-pasted content fits the situation to 100%.
3. Taking It Case By Case
Read everything a customer sends you. This should go without saying, but we have encountered this numerous times over the years, whether in a shopping context or some other form of customer care. It is deeply frustrating to have meticulously provided the counterpart with relevant information, only to have a reply show that barely any of it was registered.
4. Tailoring Content In Messages
Remove copy-paste standard nonsense when not applicable. When seeing the same few sentences over and over, with the relevant additions or changes in between somewhere, it is clear to the customer how little effort is made to be clear and efficient out of the customer’s perspective, not seller’s. It is about the customer after all.
5. Tone Of Voice With A Customer
Don’t lecture a customer. They aren’t supposed to know specific wordings but rely on you to provide them with the help they need. A snippy tone will be told about in social networks.
6. Fixing A Problem And Reputation Management
Fix the problem. If the problem is at your end, it is your problem. Do not ever underestimate what social media can do to destroy the reputation of a business. Even when the customer may seem difficult, put yourself in their shoes and imagine what facing a dismissing wall would feel like. Don’t forget to recall that the customer has put their earnings on line for you.
7. Offering An Apology
If you can’t fix it, own the mistake. Claim responsibility and be genuinely sorry when apologising. Learn how to apologise properly so it sounds like you actually mean it (and actually mean it as well).
8. Carefully Considering Carriers
The carrier represents your brand. You may get what you pay for. In our case here, there were no problems when using PostNord, but the replacement really isn’t up to the task. Yet it doesn’t matter, because they represent you, bad attitudes and all.
9. Test Shopping
Do test shopping of your own if at all possible to check the reliability of your chosen carrier. How does communication happen? How is a parcel handled and delivered?
10. Using Feedback Fully
If a customer takes time to explain exactly why they are dissatisfied and are leaving to another company, take note. Learn from mistakes made to avoid repeating them. Thank the customer for their input as well. It is free feedback for you after all and it should go without saying that your business benefits from being as well-oiled a machinery as possible.
11. When A Customer Wants To Leave
Losing customers is not optimal. It takes money and effort to attract them in the first place and turning them into return customers is even harder work. If they let you know through message exchanges with customer service that they want to leave, say you are sorry to see a loyal customer go. Let them know they are valued (it doesn’t hurt to literally use the word loyal) and that you hope they will change their mind. If they still want to go, wish them all the best.
Don’t close the door unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes, as in various relationships, we as entrepreneurs simply need to cool off a bit, have a thinking session, and see another side of the story after a while. No customer will bother knocking on a door that was slammed in their face though.
12. Stay Humble
Your customer is a living, breathing human who chose you in the first place. Don’t let it get to your head, but know your place, recognise the competition, and always keep questioning processes as well as improving.
Actively invite feedback and do your best to acknowledge in a constructive manner even the negative kind. All comments are learning opportunities and those who listen to their customers will see loyalty spread through the networks.
Shopping online is its own beast. Those who choose this do so due to very clear reasons, which makes meeting expectations harder at times compared to when walking into a store close to home. No-shows still happen in transit and there is always a risk of handling a credit-card number across the wires.
However, people want to be loyal. They want to feel part of something bigger. They want to support niche online shops alongside local businesses. And they love spreading the word of a business providing excellent service.
Maya Angelou put it beautifully: ”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make it count even when it is something as mundane as bulk cosmetics and toiletries.
Now implement if you haven’t already! Can you share tips of your own in the comments?
Photo credit: Paweł Czerwiński.