How to Fumble an Almost Perfect Customer Experience

Aug 20, 2019, 10:30:00 AM

ASatisfiedCustomerIsTheBestBusinessStrategyofAll

I recently moved cross-country with my two little kids. What I couldn’t fit from our 3-bedroom urban bungalow into four little 5x8 wooden shipping containers, I had to pack into a 12-foot cargo trailer. I (somehow) successfully towed this u-haul trailer 700 miles behind my older X5, and of course, the max speed when towing the trailer was only 60 miles per hour; it took me about three days in storming weather due to the number of stops necessary when traveling with small children.

I would tell you I’m a minimalist. But, when trying to fit the contents of my family’s entire existence into four little wooden crates and one trailer, it was apparent just how many things we would have to part with. Also, we would be living (i.e. traveling) out of suitcases--one per person--for two months in between. This meant multiple trips to donation centers before shipping the things we wanted to keep and making the journey to our new home.

While unpacking these crates into our new, slightly larger home, it quickly became evident how many things we would now need to go buy. Great! Having an extra bedroom really threw me for a loop--hello, entirely new bedroom set! And with two little kids, shopping can only be done online. Like many other consumers these days, I prioritize brands by their customer service and reputation instead of basing my purchasing decisions purely off of who can offer the lowest price. Which company is going to be most helpful if I need to return something? Who can ship big pieces of furniture and household items to the Alabama Georgia Florida line the fastest and, even better, for free?

As I continued my unpacking I realized I left something behind when cleaning out my previous home for the new buyers: my vacuum. No love lost, because I was definitely due for a new one, but where would I go buy a vacuum online? I remember one of my friends raving about her Rainbow vacuum, which uses a water filtration system to trap dirt. Thanks to the Google shopping feature, I found an alternative water filtration vacuum that was $100 on Wayfair versus the $2,500 Rainbow vacuum I definitely couldn’t afford. The price drew me in and the reviews sold me on it.

I ended up buying the Kalorik vacuum, along with a twin bed for my oldest. (He was very excited about his new “big kid room” and no longer having bunk beds in a shared room with his little brother.) The vacuum arrived a few days later. I happily vacuumed every inch of my new house, horrified by what it captured but so glad to have found a great vacuum, until… it stopped working only a week later. I was so deflated but called Wayfair customer service that same day.

 

Great Service Saves the Day

An agent answered almost immediately. He verified my name and address from the phone number I called in from. I was prepared to offer an order number and an onslaught of information, but he simply asked which item I was calling about. He already had my most recent order pulled up. In addition to being incredibly efficient, he was genuinely friendly. I told him I had scoured the web for this type of vacuum, all of the reviews were exceedingly positive, and the price was just right. He offered me a refund and apologized for the product failure, but I told him I just really wanted a vacuum, not my money back! So, he offered to send me a replacement that same day with free expedited shipping. I was instructed to dispose of or donate the inoperable vacuum. 

I couldn’t believe it! I’ve never had such a positive customer service experience in my life. He was fast, friendly, and helpful. And the result of the way he treated me? I went back to Wayfair and bought a wooden dining table, four dining chairs, and a big area rug for my bedroom. Because of this agent’s service, Wayfair earned more business from me.

 

And Then They Dropped the Ball

Here is where the experience falls down on itself, however. While their customer-facing software and service are clearly ahead of their competitors, their internal communications are lacking. The vacuum incident happened at the end of June. I received an email almost a month later stating the following:

We’re very sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your order and for any inconvenience it has caused.

Our warehouse would like you to return the problematic item for inspection. If you could please have it re-packaged in its original packaging, a pre-paid return label will be emailed to you. You can remove all old labels from the box, attach the new label, and then hand the box to a (UPS/FedEx) driver or drop at the nearest (UPS/FedEx) facility.

Thank you for your patience as we try to make this right.

If the warehouse agent had access to my customer history and the transcript of my call with the agent or even notes that the agent added to my account, they would KNOW the agent instructed me to dispose of or donate the inoperable vacuum weeks ago. This was so untimely and needless to say, their request was impossible. The first agent had already made the situation right. Now another agent was telling me to package up my problematic item--which I no longer have--and drive to a UPS or FedEx store and send it back. 

Even if I still had the broken vacuum, I had already recycled the box. Where would I get a box big enough to send the faulty product back? Would I really have to go to all this trouble with my two little ones in tow? Any parent will tell you, this sounds like torture!

So, while I hadn’t forgotten the friendliness of the agent I had on the phone when I first called in, I probably wasn’t exceedingly kind in my response to the warehouse agent’s email.  But things didn’t end there. My response garnered another one email from that warehouse agent:

I apologize for the confusion in receiving this email so long after the issue occurred.

Wayfair does sometimes ask that our customer retain a defective item for up to 14 days in case the warehouse wants it back. In this case, the warehouse has requested the item.

So that I may best apprise them of the situation, have you disposed of just the packaging or the defective unit as well?

Of course, I disposed of it the minute I got my replacement! Just like the agent told me. And guess what, the new one is still running fine!

 

Don’t Settle for Almost Perfect 

I’m still shopping at Wayfair. But I know there are likely many, many customers that don’t actually get a resolution from companies before getting annoyed. I want good brands to do even better!

A customer service platform that has unified communications built into it, where all agents share a single pane of glass approach with customers and have agent-to-agent chat, would have eliminated this distasteful misstep. The first agent I spoke to needs a raise, and the other agents and employees within the company need to know what’s going on. Give all employees, customer-facing and internal, one platform that’s truly unified so the customer experience you provide is seamless. Don’t let it be amazing and then fumble.

Kendal Rodgers

Written by Kendal Rodgers

Kendal is the Marketing Manager at Edify and has been writing and curating content most of her professional career. She’s passionate about working with start-ups and sharing life experiences through storytelling. Kendal earned her B.S. in Marketing and International Studies from the IU Kelley School of Business.