Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Turning a frown upside down

My experience with Waterstone's is proof that by providing excellent service, a company can turn a problem into an opportunity.

The problem: On 22nd May I'd ordered two books from Waterstones.com: The Little Stranger and The Taste of Sorrow. The former was despatched within a few days; the latter, according to a follow-up email from Waterstone's, was out of stock but due in shortly.

I received The Little Stranger, completed The Little Stranger (a good read, not on a par with author Sarah Waters's earlier books like Fingersmith, but still worth buying in hardcover), and filed The Little Stranger in my bookcase. Still no Taste of Sorrow, nor any word from Waterstone's as to when, or if, I could expect it.

So, having received an Amazon gift card for my birthday (thanks, Rhonda and Charles!), I checked Amazon.co.uk to see if it had Taste of Sorrow in stock. It did, available for immediate despatch.

By now I was pretty disgruntled with Waterstone's. Not so much because Amazon had access to the book while Waterstone's didn't, but because Waterstone's hadn't gotten in touch with me regarding the status of my order since 22nd May--nearly four weeks ago. I was determined to cancel my order with Waterstone's, but being the shy, retiring type, I didn't want to have to talk with a customer service rep. But because of the bookseller's lack of email communication to date, I didn't trust that any email I sent to cancel my order would be received.

I was also skeptical when I went to the Contact Us page of Waterstones.com and read "Try our online assistant for immediate answers to your questions". But I clicked the link, scrolled down the brief menu of FAQs, and saw a query about cancelling orders. Ends up all I had to do was log in to the My Account page, click a form, and boom! order cancelled.

Granted, Waterstone's did end up losing this sale. But--and here's where the opportunity comes in--it hasn't lost future sales from me: Because the cancellation process was so easy, I'll have no qualms about ordering from the site again. Just as important, my anger with the company has been replaced with all sorts of warmth and fuzziness.

PS: I ordered Taste of Sorrow from Amazon; I should receive it next week. After all this, the book had better be good.--SC

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