Service Simplicity Doesn’t Beat Accuracy

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When we asked about easily avoidable customer service frustrations, responses ran the gamut of experiences.  But one theme stood out overall: it is more valuable to be 100% accurate than it is to be 100% accommodating to our customers.  Consider Greatta’s story for an illustration as to why.

Gretta had ordered a large rug online.  However, when it arrived and was put down in her room, she noticed that there was a fairly long, pink stripe on the otherwise cream rug.  Disappointed, she called customer service to initiate a return.

Photo by Christian Gidlöf

“It was really easy to call customer service.  I got through quickly, reported the mark, and the representative easily agreed it shouldn’t be there and was not worth an attempt at cleaning.  She didn’t even request photo evidence; she just took my word for it.  That was great and I was happy with the experience.”

But the next step the representative took is where the trouble began.  She assured Gretta that it would be easy to have the rug picked up by the shipping service, as she simply needed to roll it up and make it accessible to them.  No need to wrap or label it.  So Gretta recruited some strong friends to roll it up and cart it out to her patio to await pick up on the next business day.

When that day arrived, Gretta received an email alerting her to an impending delivery from the retailer rather than a pick up.  She called the shipper to correct the information to reflect a pick up and was assured someone would arrive that day.

“But the day quickly went by and the rug was still sitting in the yard, so I called the shipper again.  It turns out the representative from the store had keyed in the wrong information and the shipper couldn’t change the information.  So the shipper did not have it on their route to stop at my house.  The store rep made a mistake and the shipper gave me bad information.”

With rain in the forecast for the next day and a very large rug sitting on the patio, Gretta began to panic and called the retailer again.  The new representative saw the mistake and quickly placed a corrected pick up order.  Once again Gretta asked about leaving the rug simply rolled up and was assured that it was fine, “but if I wanted to wrap some plastic bags around part of it as a feeble attempt to protect it, that was fine, too.  But since it was a defective product, it really wasn’t necessary and getting a bit wet was OK.”

However, the next day came, and with it, rain.  “I felt bad just leaving the rug out in the rain, so I covered it as best I could with the largest bag I had and left the shipper a note that it was OK to take partially open per the store as it was defective.  So imagine my surprise when the shipper left a note on the door that he couldn’t take it ‘in it’s current condition without packaging’.”

Gretta called the shipper and was informed it was against company policy to take any item not completely enclosed in some form of wrapping; precisely the opposite of what the retailer had told her and a bit of information that had been left out of the multiple calls she had placed to the shipper.

She then had to call the retailer, looking for a solution for the giant rug that would not go away.  “The representative I talked to was really shocked that I’d been told rolling it up was OK.  Or that partially wrapping it just for my peace of mind was OK.  I explained my rug saga to her and how I did not have anything nearly large enough to enclose it for shipment.  She put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back with an offer to reimburse me for the expense of going out and buying something appropriate so that it could finally leave my patio.  I don’t love having to do this legwork to fix a quality control failing on their part, but it would have been a lot easier to get this done over the weekend, before we added rain to the mix and countless frustrating phone calls to the store and to the shipping company!  At least I would have been prepared, albeit slightly annoyed, rather than frantic and absolutely furious!  People telling me what I wanted to hear on a 5 minute call didn’t change reality and I’ve now spent days paying for it.”

It can be so easy to slip into the trap of wanting to tell customers that everything will be easy and we’ll just take care of it.  Even when that isn’t the case.  Setting realistic expectations and providing thorough, accurate information is crucial to giving our customers positive experiences with our companies overall.  If not, our customers can find themselves entangled in service nightmares they never saw coming.

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