Recently I’ve had some shopping experiences online that have left a bad taste in my mouth. I figured that I had stewed over them long enough and wanted to jot some thoughts down on the blog and get your take. First off, let me say that in my opinion the gold standard in online shopping, shipping and customer service is Zappos – hands down. No one else even comes close. And while I don’t hold other companies to quite that high of a standard, they have set the benchmark and I’ve come to expect something in the same ballpark.
Rock n’ Roll Woes
Recently I bought some merchandise from a musician’s online store. I’ve been a fan of this particular guitar player for a long time and wanted to order a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie. I placed my order on a Thursday morning and waited. By the following Tuesday I still hadn’t received any sort of confirmation or shipping notification so I emailed the web shop. The first thing I did was respond to their initial “payment received” email. That bounced. Hmmm, why did that happen? Oh yeah, I see it here – the address in the reply field of their confirmation email was “email@example.com.” Ok, so they never changed the template – sloppy. Undeterred, I went to their site and found a different contact email. That also bounced back with a “mailbox full” message. Finally, I found a .me address and sent an email there hoping for a miracle. Nothing. After two days I emailed again telling them that if I didn’t receive some sort of response that I would file a dispute with PayPal. I heard back within 5 minutes and they said my order would be shipping that day and that I’d receive confirmation within the hour. But, another day went by with no email. After emailing them again with no response, I finally filed a dispute with PayPal to get my money back. However, 10 minutes after I opened that dispute I got an automated email telling me my order had shipped – this was now a full two weeks after the order was placed. I noticed the order was being shipped from Las Vegas via USPS Priority Mail. I live in Santa Barbara – less than 400 miles from Las Vegas – meaning the package should have been there in 2-3 days. Yet, 6 days later, I still didn’t have my order. Finally, PayPal stepped in and reached out to the seller. Miraculously, two days later I received my package. Interestingly, it’s post-marked only two days earlier meaning it left their facility 6 days after they said it did.
Did you follow all that?
Obviously this was a colossal screw-up for this business. They did make a half-assed attempt after I’d received delivery to make sure I had, in their words, “received my order and make sure everything was taken care of,” but there was no apology for the delay, deception and aggravation that I had gone through as a customer. There was no special coupon or credit offered. Honestly, it felt like their main focus was to make sure I closed the dispute and they got to keep their money.
A week later I ordered a watch from an online retailer, and while I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of that transaction, let’s just say that the combined frustration of these two back-to-back experiences inspired me to write this post.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard
If you’re selling products online you have to have a rigid set of standards for your entire sales process from order placement to customer delivery. That includes acknowledging a customer’s order, their payment and notification of shipment. If you want them to feel good about handing you their credit card information, you need to make sure to get the simple things right, and let them know you’re an organization that can be trusted. By not sending out even basic confirmations you can cause unnecessary panic and mistrust amongst your customers.
I understand that problems happen sometimes. There will occasionally be times when an item is out of stock, or shipping is delayed. Instead of staying silent, be upfront and accountable to your customer. A personalized email goes a long way to smooth over any initial frustration and most will find it refreshing that a business took the time to explain the issue.
When you make a mistake, offer compensation. Offer to upgrade shipping, or email them a coupon for 20% off their next order. Not only will you smooth over any ruffled feathers, but you’ll be building goodwill towards your brand for future purchases.
These all seem like no-brainers to me, but clearly that’s not the case with a lot of online businesses today. When people make a purchase from your website, many are first-time customers. If you want them to come back, it is paramount that you provide a stellar shopping experience by keeping them informed, acknowledging those rare mistakes and compensating them for any hassle.
Does This Resonate?
Do you run an online web store? What is your philosophy on customer service? How do you ensure that your customers receive a great experience? What hard lessons have you learned along the way?
As an online shopper what are your pet-peeves? What companies do you buy from that provide stellar online service?