Monday, 29 June 2009

Communication breakdown

Earlier this month I wrote about how Waterstone's managed to turn a customer service failing into a customer service win. Fashion cataloguer Gudrun Sjoden recently managed to do the same--except the failing shouldn't have happened in the first place.

On Saturday I tried to place an order on the Gudrun Sjoden website. When I came to the end of the checkout process, instead of receiving a message saying "thank you" or "your order has been processed", I was shown a screen of the home page. Uncertain whether my order had indeed gone through, I went to my email inbox; no confirmation message awaited. And when I returned to the Gudrun Sjoden site, my shopping basket still had my two items in it. So I went through the checkout process again, and again ended up with no confirmation, just a screen shot of the home page. This time, though, my basket was shown to be empty, so I emailed the company asking if my order went through.

Sunday morning my credit-card company rang to ask if I'd placed two back-to-back orders with Gudrun Sjoden. Well, at least I had confirmation that my order had gone through--but the confirmation wasn't from Gudrun Sjoden, and the confirmation showed that I was being billed twice. Later that day Gudrun Sjoden responded to my email, letting me know that yes, my order had been processed and I'd be receiving it within 10 days. I wrote back, asking about the double billing.

Late Monday morning I received another response from Gudrun Sjoden, reassuring me that I was being billed just the once. The wording was very professional, and I was satisfied. Sort of.

The thing is, in this day and age there's really no excuse for an ecommerce site not to end the checkout process with a confirmation screen. Likewise, there's really no excuse for an ecommerce site not to send an automatic email confirming the order and letting the customer know when to expect the goods. Nor is there really any excuse for a company not to immediately respond to an email query, even if it's just with a message along the lines of "Thank you for your email. Our customer service department is now closed, but as soon as it reopens we will respond to your query."

By failing to communicate with me properly, Gudrun Sjoden risked losing me as a customer, as well as risked my shouting throughout cyberspace about my dissatisfaction. What's more, it had to spend resources, in terms of customer-service manhours, in having two agents respond to me manually.

So many articles (including a number of those in Catalogue e-business) discuss advanced email tactics and ecommerce strategies. It's worth remembering, though, that such sophisticated enhancements are all for naught if you don't even get the basics right.--SC

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