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Why the customer should always be right - even online

If the big boys like Asos can get it right, and the indies are going the extra mile, Catherine Neilan asks shouldn’t everyone be making customer convenience the centre of their world?

For all the change we have seen in our industry, customer service has remained the one constant. If you don’t put the customer at the heart of your business, you may as well pack up and go home. It’s true no matter what size or shape, and it’s as true now as it was when the first shops were born.

The difference now is that people want convenience as much as they want politeness, or someone to remember their size.  When people can compare everything online, prices standardise and interaction is limited, and this makes ease of purchase the essential differentiator.

It’s why big businesses like Asos – with its free delivery and straight-forward returns policy – have done so well in the digital world.

It’s why indies such as Chichester-based Dartagnan also go the extra mile, opening a couple of hours early or late so that office workers can drop in, or even delivering clothes to the customer’s home.

My recent experience with H&M therefore was something of a surprise. It was my first time ordering something online through the Swedish multinational – despite having the app, and regularly shopping online elsewhere, I have never found H&M works for me online.

I had tried once before to buy something from H&M, but realised too late there was a “security” issue, one which required me to call customer services on a premium line during work hours, and so took the refund and accepted I hadn’t bought the items in question.

“Easy come, easy go”, I thought to myself. Such is the world of online transactions.

But last week, I found myself getting caught up in some of the frenzy around H&M’s Maison Martin Margiela collaboration. Back in the office, I was pleased when I managed to get the order through online, and began waiting for the usual notification that it had been delivered to my office.

Instead of that, today I was once again told of this “security” issue.

Hankering for my limited edition shirt, I bought the bullet and called customer service.

Turns out the security issue is H&M’s policy not to deliver items to people’s place of work. Despite the fact that every other etailer does this. Instead, it will be delivered to my home – where I will not be during work hours – resulting in me probably having to trek a couple of miles down to my nearest Post Office (thanks to closures).

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst crime in the world, but had I known their policy it would have made me think twice about buying from them, and it will certainly dissuade me from buying in future. The fact I’ve had to pay for a delivery that could take up to a fortnight also riles.

When some rival stores have even created an entire marketing campaign around delivering to your office in time for a party, you have to question a policy that makes it less convenient for the customer. After all, the customer is – and always should be– right.  

Readers' comments (4)

  • This article reads like the angry blog post of a 16 year old girl.

    The customer is not always right, some people out there are just looking to pick fights, take advantage or get something for nothing, sometimes all three.

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  • Sorry you feel that Anonymous, I was simply trying to make the point that if you don't make it easy for people, they will go elsewhere. I'm not trying to pick a fight, take advantage or get something for nothing - I'd just like my items to be delivered to my work place as with every other purchase I've made online.

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  • totally agree..hassle H&M..still no delivery for an item ordered over a week ago..and why not deliver at work like the rest of the planet..so much hassle and btw you can exchange the item in the store but not get a refund..come on..never again

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  • With a big company they should be able to offer a delivery to alternative address service and we offer the same on our mini indie website but if we get a fraudulent transaction and we don't deliver to the billing address we have no chance of keeping the payment. It's a hit we, sadly, have to take sometimes but we can no longer offer this option for overseas deliveries.....and we sell a lot to the USA ...it does inconvenience a lot of customers but we can't say to the customer (in writing by e-mail) of sorry, you could be a fraud and we can't take the risk) so we say nothing......just a 'rules is rules' cop out. As a shoopper, no one beats asos for seamless deliveries (but they did deliver the wrong pair of boots to me last week which I still have to sort out)

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