Paul Gilliham is Lithium's Director of Customer Marketing, responsible for customer engagement marketing, social media and Lithium's own community, the Lithosphere.
He is a regular blogger for Lithium and in the Lithosphere you'll see him as PaulGi. You can follow him on Twitter at @lithiumtech or @bladefrog
Sometimes the best laid plans misfire. Things happen, mistakes are made. That is a cold fact. In these situations it is invariably ‘how’ you deal with the misfire that makes the customer service experience, and turns around unhappy customers.
This post doesn’t talk about one of our customers, just an interesting case of an honest mistake, how it was dealt with and how open, transparent customer service turned what could have been the loss of a customer into someone who is actually a strong advocate.
To protect the innocent, names of the company and individuals have been changed…
A friend of mine introduced me to a new online clothing story for men, specializing in great tailored pants (and some other shirts, jackets etc). Let’s call them monkeystrousers.com (which of course isn’t the actual company, but if you think about it you can probably work it out).
I got the usual sort of refer-a-friend discount incentive from my bud, and the pants arrived fast, were great, and over the last couple of months I haven’t actually bought dress pants or casual trousers from anywhere else. I am sort of a believer.
One of the pairs that I ordered were the special edition golf pants, which were great. When they introduced their new version in black – called the Calcutta – I thought, cool, time for another pair. So I ordered them (it happened to be a Thurs) and got the instant, thanks for your order email.
The week carries on, and when the weekend comes, I realized that I hadn’t yet had a ‘your order has shipped’ confirmation. Usually it was next day, and sometimes even the same day. So this was odd. I contact their customer service team by mail. Within the hour I get a response, incredibly apologetically telling me that in their cut over to a new ordering system, a couple of orders got left behind. The pants order has been re-entered in to the system, and also an additional credit has been applied to my account for the inconvenience.
Nice service, heh mistakes happen right?
Oooh my order is here
My very nicely packaged order arrives, and while the packaging slip is correct, the pants are actually the wrong size. And we’re not talking hand grenades close or a bit short in the leg, we’re talking miles off, or 8 inches in the waist and 6 in the leg.
Sort of disappointing but also sort of amusing in a ‘how can they be so far off’ sort of way.
Back to the website. Look up my account, look up returns, and follow the simple steps for free replacement and exchange.
The options are:
return and refund – nope I just want the right size
return and get credit – err nope
return and pick new size – that sounds promising.
Well not so much. Smartly the ‘pick new size’ option is precisely what it means. My size was neatly left out of the pick list as, of course, if I am returning a pair because they don’t fit, why would I need to choose the same size. Good logic, but not really helping me.
Okay, turn to the old dog (and bone – ie Phone) and sort this out. Agent answers in a couple of rings and very apologetically tells me that they will dispatch the correct size right now, and just ship the wrong size back with this rma ref. Great service again. That’s the way to empower a service agent, deal with the issue, and defuse any chance for customer frustration.
Cool – okay I was without my order still, but feeling good that it’s sorted.
Fast forward a couple of days
Oooh new box is here. Err, these aren’t the right size either and I mean miles out again. What on Earth…? Back on the phone, agent answers right away (I have to admit, they do answer the phone fast), and I joke that they are getting closer to fulfilling my order. I could hear the embarrassment on the other end of the phone when I explained what was going on.
Again, a quick thinking agent, said hmm, okay this is odd. I am giving you another credit and I am going to dispatch an order right now, but send them direct to her at HQ to hand check the order and ensure it is correct, so I don’t get another incorrect package. Smart thinking.
Few More Days… Guess What?
I get an email from my friendly agent… pants have arrived, yay… and they are the wrong size again, boo! This is now 5 weeks for ordering pants. Another credit issued.
A second email the next day informs me that I have discovered a systemic issue in the entire batch of Calcutta pants, in that every pair was in the wrong packaging. So everyone who ordered got the wrong size, not just me. Plus, they have found a correctly sized pair and they are on the way, right now, with expedited delivery.
What’s the lesson here?
Well yes, it was just pants, and luckily for me, they weren’t crucial for a trip and I didn’t desperately need them, so it was easier to be a little more relaxed about the whole thing. It may have been different if it was something I really needed now.
I think more over, I was impressed how professional, courteous, open and helpful the agents were in dealing with this issue. They wanted to help. They were empowered to help. And they were resourceful in trying to resolve the issue.
To be helpful to a customer and to keep a situation under control, service professionals need to be knowledgeable, empowered to solve the problem, and have tools at their disposal to do that.
This is a situation, created by a mistake in production, that could easily been handled with a blasé approach, from an agent who didn’t really care, and they would have lost a customer. The agents were great and they definitely didn’t lose a customer.
I am strong believer in the service philosophy of the team at monkeystrousers… Thanks guys (and gals).