Customer Service: A Compendium (Volume 1)

28 02 2008

While in the corporate world, I took for granted the advantage of having a purchasing manager who made sure my office was stocked with all the necessary supplies. Now that I perform this task myself, one thing I consistently encounter is deplorable customer service. Two instances yesterday motivated me to share these reprehensible encounters. The first was with an online representative at Staples.com. Comments in red represent the Staples.com representative. Comments in blue represent me.

How May I help You?
16:04:15 SystemSystem
I usually have a coupon offer for $30 off a purchase of $150. Can you provide me with the appropriate code? Thanks
16:04:40 AgentChris
Hello.
16:04:56 AgentChris
I’m sorry. We do not provide coupon codes from here. (instance #1: okay)
16:05:16 AgentChris
You can sign up to receive offers on the home page
16:05:41 Customervikas
I’m already signed up to receive offers, but I’d like to place an order now. Can you provide a coupon code in this instance so I could proceed?
16:06:00 Customervikas
I usually receive it in a flier, but don’t seem to have one around.
16:06:21 AgentChris
We do not give coupon codes from here. (instance #2 – mildly offended)
16:08:04 Customervikas
Well, is there anything else that you can do that would prevent me from taking the time to search the internet for the code that I’ll eventually use? I’m not trying to be difficult. I just think if you have information that your customer can find useful which requires marginal effort on your part, it’s a win-win for both parties
16:08:30 Customervikas
no?
16:09:17 AgentChris
We do not provide customers with coupon codes. (instance #3 – the online equivalent of ” I know you are but what am I?”) These are only sent out by out marketing department.
16:09:27 AgentChris
May I assist you with anything else today?
16:10:46 Customervikas
Just wondering. How many people inquire about coupon codes during this chat session?
16:12:16 AgentChris
If people ask us for a coupon they are denied (instance #4: you’ve insulted my intelligence and now I’m officially pissed off)
16:12:37 AgentChris
You will need to wait for another offer from our marketing department
16:12:53 AgentChris
We are not allowed to give out coupons. (instance #5: I’ve decided to take time out of my day to post about this ludicrous interaction)
16:15:19 AgentChris
Is there anything else you needed help with?
16:16:07 Customervikas
It’s clear that you’re not allowed to give out coupons. I just assume a lot of people ask for them and you waste more time denying them rather than getting them to make a purchase on the spot – and thus more profit for your company. I don’t need anything else right now. Thanks for your help.

This is where a pop-up appeared notifying me that the session had ended. Here are some takeaways from this interaction.

  1. Do not patronize your customers! It is offensive and unprofessional to repeat the same statement over and over again. How about you actually offer a solution or assure me that you’ll address this issue with your manager (even if it’s a lie).
  2. Be polite! I would have felt a lot better about this interaction had AgentChris sounded like a human and not a pre-programmed automaton. AgentChris committed the online equivalent of hanging up on me.
  3. Provide a solution! What would happen if AgentChris had actually given me a coupon? And an extra one to send to a friend? Two sales rather than none…god forbid. Wait, did I hear something about gross margins? Understand the mentality of the online demographic. It requires very little (resources) to acquire a loyal customer. It takes even less to lose the same customer. Furthermore, the cost of spreading praise and (in this case) disapproval has also been reduced to $0. Amazon is very aware of this. Staples is not.
  4. The competition is only a click away! By the way, I ended up buying everything I needed at Amazon (and spent $50 on unrelated items as well).

I bet a few savvy Staples.com competitors will see this and reevaluate their customer service model. I’m also fairly certain that Staples.com will continue to do business as usual.

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2 responses

28 02 2008
Guerrillero

you are absolutely right when saying “provide a solution”. to me this is what customer service is all about.

21 03 2008
Starbucks harnesses wisdom of the crowds « The Side Stage

[…] blogs often blinds companies to the preexisting wealth of customer feedback within the firm.  See my previous post on Staples.com, which illustrates the type of conversations a company should be reviewing and […]

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