On Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, I placed an online order for a Christmas gift for my wife. I was pleased to see that the product she wanted was “in stock,” and that I would be able to get it using “standard shipping” within 2-6 days. So, I placed the order, and within minutes, received confirmation via email.
Unfortunately, the next day I received two emails from the company (we’ll call it “EZ-Online”) One said that the order was cancelled, while the second said that it would be shipped on December 19th and arriving within 2-6 days.
I was confused: Was my order cancelled, or was it going to ship on December 19th? If the latter, how could I be sure that it would arrive in time to be wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree with my wife’s other presents?
To get answers to the above questions, I went to EZ-Online.com and connected to a link that said “Got questions? Chat now with one of our customer service representatives.”
So, I typed in my name, email address, order number, and a detailed comment regarding the reason for contacting the company.
Thanks to the miracle of “cut-and-paste” I have an exact record of my customer service contact experience. I have changed the name of the customer service representative to protect the guilty.
Raymond: Thank you for joining EZ-Online Chat Support. My name is Raymond. I’ll be assisting you today.
Randall Brandt: Hi Raymond…I received two emails this morning at 8:05 ET…one says this order is cancelled, while the other says it is scheduled to ship on December 19th (which will probably not get it here in time for Christmas, and this is a present for my wife)…can you please clarify what is going on here?
Raymond: Hello. Randall. Let me make sure that I fully understand your concern…you want to clarify the status of your order. Is that correct?
Randall Brandt: Yes….I received two emails today…one said the order was cancelled, while the other says it is scheduled to ship on December 19th…either way I am concerned…if it is cancelled, I’ll need to find the product elsewhere….if it is shipping on the 19th, I am concerned it will not arrive in time for Christmas.
Raymond: Let me check it for you first. May I have your order number, please?
Randall Brandt: Didn’t it come through?
Raymond: No, I’m sorry, but I don’t have it.
Randall Brandt: 689219664
Raymond: Can you give me a few moments while I pull up and check your order?
Randall Brandt: Yes
Raymond: Thank you, please stay on the line.
(Approximately two minutes lapse here)
Raymond: Thank you for waiting. According to our system, the item that you ordered will be available 1-2 weeks from now. That is why it will be shipped on the 19th of December, 2013. Your order is not cancelled.
Randall Brandt: If it is not going arrive by December 23rd (at the absolute latest), it will do me no good…what can we do to ensure arrival by/before that date?
Raymond: Let me check first. Please give me a minute or two so I can thoroughly review this.
(Approximately four minutes lapse here)
Raymond: As I look up on this. It can be delivered on December 23rd if you change the shipping method form Standard Delivery which is usually 2-6 business days to Expedited Delivery which is 1-2 business days only. However, due to holiday season we cannot guarantee that it will go on time. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Randall Brandt: Raymond, I appreciate your efforts….but, this is the first and last time I will shop at EZ-Online.com…EZ-Online took my order, and then when the problem is out-of-stock at your end, you want me to pay even more for shipping (IMO, EZ-Online should do this at its own expense, not mine) to ensure the product will arrive on time…but “due to the holiday season we cannot guarantee that it will go on time”….?!!!! No thanks…please cancel order #689219664.
Raymond: We really apologize for the inconvenience. I’ll be cancelling it right away.
Randall Brandt: Thanks for your assistance Raymond.
Raymond: Please stay on the line while I’m processing it.
(Approximately one minute lapses here)
Raymond: Thank you for waiting. I already sent a request to cancel your order.
Randall Brandt: Will I be receiving confirmation of the cancellation via email?
Raymond: Yes, you will receive it once it was cancelled.
Randall Brandt: Okay, thanks again for your assistance.
Raymond: I’m glad I was able to help. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Randall Brandt: No, thank you.
Did EZ-online.com use technology effectively to support its customer service efforts?
Not really. The information I had to enter before being connected to a customer service representative apparently was not transferred to him. So, I had to give my name, order number, and reason for wanting to chat all over again….kind of makes you wonder why I had to enter that information the first time.
Was Raymond helpful?
Not particularly. I am not saying he didn’t try, but basically, he told me that the product would ship on December 19th, that if I wanted it within a day or two, I’d have to pay extra for shipping, but because EZ-Online gets really busy during the holidays, on-time delivery still could not be guaranteed…uh, thanks, I think…..
Did Raymond solve my problem?
No. I am no further along with my effort to buy this gift for my wife than I was four days ago.
Was Raymond empowered to try and make things right for the customer (i.e., engage in a service recovery effort)?
If he was, Raymond did not exercise that option. More than likely, however, poor Raymond was not an empowered service representative – he was just doing what company policy and/or his management dictates. —–
There are two principles of doing business in a customer-driven marketplace that have been repeated over and over for many years now: (1) Make it easy for customers to do business with you; and (2) When a customer has a problem or complaint, and s/he brings it to your attention, resolve that problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Research conducted by Maritz, along with other studies performed by organizations like TARP and the Corporate Executive Board, consistently demonstrate that being easy to do business with, and effectively handling customer problems and complaints, both have a direct, positive impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty: The converse also is true.
Now, think about how many other customers may have had (or will have) a similar experience. Consider how they will react. Begin calculating the loss of revenue due to cancelled orders (and missed future opportunities to sell to these dissatisfied customers). The costs of poor customer experiences start to come into focus rather quickly, don’t they?
But wait – there’s more…
Note that I have told my story in a blog, and have deliberately concealed the company’s identity. Not all customers will be so kind. I suspect that some disgruntled customers will take to social media outlets to share their experiences and/or warn others to avoid EZ-Online. Such posts may discourage other potential buyers from doing business with the company. More sales opportunities will be lost due to poor customer experiences.
Poor customer experiences can be expensive, don’t you think?
It has been said that you have to spend money to make money. Money invested in making it easy for customers to do business with your firm is money well-spent. Efforts to resolve customer problems and complaints – even if they require incurring a little extra cost – are likely to protect existing customers and sales, as well as pave the way for winning more of both.
But, hey, I have to tip my hat to EZ-Online: By handling my contact as it did, the company found a way to save $10.00, and free Raymond to go help another customer.