On her hunt for sporting gear, Miss Terry Shopper shares the value of how good customer service can redeem an online retail fulfilment nightmare experience.
Recently one of my nearest and dearest (who lives overseas) tasked me with a very important challenge – he was searching for some Adidas compression tops and shorts for his sports team.
Why get them here you ask… well for this specialised sporting gear, it is apparently cheaper to buy in Australia! Imagine my surprise, where it seems Australian consumers are rushing to find bargains offshore, it’s nice to know that for some countries (ahem this is a potential international expansion opportunity for those in this industry) Australian retailers are quite competitive.
Let the challenge begin.
I have to say Australian sports websites aren’t that great. I went to a couple of the major players… Rebel, Amart and Adidas itself… they were difficult to navigate and extremely confusing to find what I was looking for. I did find a great site, Paul’s Warehouse that seemed to have exactly what I wanted and although the search function and navigation wasn’t as great as it could have been, the items were available at an extremely competitive price!
After a bit of back and forth on Skype and email, I ascertained the sizes I needed, checked the stock on the site and sent off my order. I received an email invoice confirming my order and when I checked the total amount had been debited immediately from my credit card. Excellent. Now just to wait for it to arrive, then figure out postage… or so I thought.
I placed my order on a Friday evening… the following Wednesday I received five emails dispatching my order to Paul’s bricks and mortar stores for fulfilment. When going through the emails and collating them against my original order, it looked like some of the sizes and quantities I had requested were incorrect. As my time was running out (to send these items off overseas) and I didn’t want to waste time messing around with incorrect items, I contacted the stores directly.
Speaking to the first store, I found out that though they had my tops, they were out of stock for the shorts! Out of stock… hang on Paul’s you’ve just debited the entire amount from my credit card… and on your site it said you had stock… what’s going on?!
The sales person I spoke to at the second store (where the rest of the order was sent) also advised that they were out of stock for another part of my order, but had the sizes that ‘store one’ didn’t have! She was very helpful and gave me the direct number of the online sales person who coordinated the orders.
Paul’s should really thank their lucky stars for their online sales coordinator… I was at this point not very impressed by the retailer and ready to let’s face it… have a tanty.
I called ‘Linda’ directly and she apologised for the mix-up, explaining that the online system checks for stock and if all is well automatically debits an order. However, she explained that if stock is not updated by the stores, the system is not reflective of the products Paul’s Warehouse actually has available.
I’ll admit my order was probably larger than usual (eight tops and ten shorts), however it seems this system would be an online retailer’s nightmare… you can’t control the number of orders coming in through the online channel and if there is no consistency with the stores (from which you fulfil), I would assume Paul’s would be dealing with a number of irate customers and processing multiple refunds… unless I caught them on an off day.
Continuing on… Linda was very helpful in correcting my original order, advising me of what was actually available and from which store, she then arranged the order properly and processed a refund for the items I had ordered which were not available.
So I was just left to wait for my order, which thankfully arrived the next day. End of my problems… or so I thought.
My order came from two different stores… and unfortunately one store sent me long pants, instead of shorts. This was not only painful, because I had to source the incorrect products from somewhere else, but I cringed at the idea of going through the whole process of returns.
None-the-less I called Paul’s Warehouse again on the following Monday to advise of the incorrect order. The phone went directly to a message bank, advising that the site was having problems and that Paul’s was receiving an high number of calls. I called again the next day only to get the message bank again. My patience wearing thin… I awaited the promised callback.
Once again… Paul’s you have Linda to thank – she sent me an email apologising for the mix-up, asking me to send back the items and receipt for postal costs, which she would arrange to reimburse.
This situation could have turned out very differently. However, it just goes to show how a little bit of customer service and responsiveness can go a long way. Linda eased what could have been a nightmare experience and although I was inconvenienced, I appreciated that she:
- Responded to me personally, including emails and calls.
- Tried her best to ensure that my order could be fulfilled and sent to me as quickly as possible.
- Admitted the fault and took responsibility for the mistake, offering a solution to fix it.
Would I shop at Paul’s again? The jury is still out on that. Though their prices were competitive for the items I was after, the whole kerfuffle with fulfilment was a real turn-off… there is only so much customer service can achieve and I also don’t have that much faith in the reliability of their picking and packing in-store.
At the end of the day I ordered online for the convenience of not having to go into a store and to get the items quickly… however in order to achieve my goal, I had to make multiple phone calls, source my items from elsewhere (which resulted in multiple trips to a store) and also an additional visit to the post office… dread!
What of my challenge you ask? Well I was severely let down by Australia Post and its international courier service… three to four days… more like seven to eight days for a premium price!