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Online experience is raising the bar for customer service

Caroline Nodder

I had one of my most awful fashion retail customer experiences this week, followed almost immediately by one of my best.

I had one of my most awful fashion retail customer experiences this week, followed almost immediately by one of my best.

I’m not going to name and shame anyone here, because doing so might implicate the staff members involved and ultimately the fault has to lie with the parent company. However, in the week that we bring you both our Customer Insight Report and our Multichannel Report I felt it was apt to mention both experiences.

The first was in a classic bricks-and-mortar retail store, and involved a pair of shoes I’d been eyeing up for quite some time. I knew they had my size, I’d tried them on before, so when I spotted them in the 40%-off rail I was through the doors like a shot.

This should have been a quick and easy transaction for both me and the retailer. And it started well. I was greeted warmly at the door by a smiling member of staff, who asked if there was anything in particular I was after. I explained and was directed straight to the shoe section where I was able to collect one half of the pair that I was after in my size. There didn’t seem to be any staff in the shoe section, so I took it to the till and asked them to collect the other shoe from the stockroom and take my money.

And it was then that a catalogue of errors began to unfold. The woman on the till retrieved the other shoe and began the transaction but I was using a gift card and she had no idea how you put them through the till. Neither, it turned out, did four of her nearby colleagues. A manager was called to handle the transaction. The till still wouldn’t process the card. I was walked to another till. At last it seemed to be working.

But then the manager checked the shoes in the box and found they didn’t match – the wrong shoe had been retrieved from the stockroom. Off she went to find the correct shoe, leaving a half-finished transaction which then voided – taking the gift card amount with it into the ether.

The upshot was I stood at the till for 22 minutes (I timed it) while three different staff members tried to sort out the issue.

Next day, I ordered a dress from the Whistles website. It took less than two minutes, arrived a day-and-a-half earlier than promised wrapped in lovely tissue paper, and it fitted perfectly.

My two experiences are, I admit, only two very tiny glimpses into the worlds of online and bricks-and-mortar shopping. But given that the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience lives or dies by the levels of personal customer service offered, it certainly gave me food for thought. Likewise, is it any wonder that internet shopping is seeing such growth when it is such a fast and efficient process?

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