Thursday, May 27, 2010

A lesson in how to not do customer service: Staples, are you listening?

If you're a deal follower (as I am), or you'd signed up with Staples to get their emails, you heard about an awesome deal on toilet paper that they had this past Saturday.

If, like me, you placed an order (or two) for that toilet paper, then you've had the experience of Staples lack of customer service.

I placed my first order Saturday, around ten.  It went through fine, and I even got a confirmation email from them, with a ship date.  I thought about it for a while, and decided that I wanted to order some for myself.  So I placed a second order.  Again, it went through with no bells, no errors, and I got a confirmation with a ship date.

Monday, I checked my email, and found that my second order had been cancelled.  I was not happy.  But decided that as long as the larger first order was still coming, I would be satisfied.

Tuesday morning, I checked my email, and found a second email, sent at seven o'clock the previous night that was the cancellation of my first order.

To say the least, I was not pleased.  I called Staples "customer service" and all I got was, "I'm sorry".  Which I know, from working customer service in a call center translates into "you're screwed, and we're not going to do a damn thing about it".

I asked to speak to a supervisor, and told her in no uncertain terms how displeased I was.  And how, this really is making me question whether or not I want to remain being a customer of Staples.

She offered me a $25.00 emailed coupon off my next order ( I have yet to see it, so we'll have to wait on that.) 

I did some research, and it seems that people who ordered at three in the morning had their orders cancelled!  This tells me that their system was accepting orders for more than twelve hours after they "ran out of stock".  This is unacceptable. Especially for a national corporation.

Allow me to offer Staples some advice.
1. Don't make an offer that you're unwilling to abide by.  If quantities are so limited that you can't manage to fill orders even when they're placed in the beginning of a daily deal, you should mention exactly how limited quantities are. eg: quantities limited to the first 1000.
2. Disclose, Disclose, DISCLOSE.  I'm not upset that they didn't fill my order.  I'm upset that they mislead me, took my order, sent me a ship date and a confirmation, then cancelled.  Had they disclosed how limited the quantity was (see #1 above), or that they were limiting quantities per person, I would've chalked it up to another deal I missed out on.
3. Impress upon your customer service staff to be polite at all costs.  And EMPOWER them to do something.  I shouldn't have to speak to a supervisor to have gotten some sort of concession.
4. Plan ahead.  I don't know what Staples pays their IT people, but I'm guessing it would've cost less to pay one of them to hang around all night Friday night into Saturday morning to make sure this went smoothly.  Also, if you're offering a smoking deal (we're talking about an item that is normally 18.99 that was "sale" priced at 2.99, and is an everyday necessity), why not test out your system before it goes live?  Again, I don't know how much this would've cost, but I'm guessing less than the concessions pissed off customers are demanding, plus all the terrible publicity.
5. Any publicity is good publicity only works for celebrities.  For a national corporation like Staples, this sort of mess is nothing but bad.  And the repercussions of which will be felt for years.
6. The Internet is your customer's friend, but it can be your enemy.  Yes, the Internet is great for emailing your customers about your sales.  And yes, it's great for having an online store.  But it's sort of like keeping a leopard as a pet.  The good stuff is really good.  But you need to keep your eye on it at all times.  You never know when it's going to turn on you and bite you.  There are TONS of sites out there that help consumers get the best deal.  They will work it out to the penny.  I can't tell you how many places I saw this deal.  And most places had worked it out to the cost per sheet or the cost per square foot.  Deal seekers are a savvy, chatty bunch.  And they won't soon forget this.  Years from now,  when Staples has a good deal, someone will chime in with, "yeah, but remember in '10 they screwed up on the toilet paper?"
7.  Honesty goes a long, long way.  Especially with this hard core group of deal seekers.  Had Staples just said, look... "we screwed the pooch.  We should have limited the deal to one per person/account.  We should have made sure our system worked and here's what we're gonna do to make it right..."  They would've gained immeasurable respect in the deal seeking community.  And they would've gotten a ton of good publicity out of this.

But Staples hasn't done any of this.  They're blaming it all on a "glitch".  
A glitch... that they allowed to go on, for a day.  That they didn't address until two days later.

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