Customer Experience

Customer Experience

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

The curse of miscommunication in customer service

Last week, a relative of mine celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary and I had arranged for some flowers to be delivered as a gift. However, the experience was fraught with a number of disconnected processes and miscommunications, demonstrating a business that is likely working in silos and without the necessary connections between itself and its distributors.

The flowers were ordered on the 15th October, and I had selected ‘nominated delivery’ for the 20th October (the day of their anniversary). The day before they were due to arrive, I received a customary email from the retailer letting me know that the order had been dispatched and that it was still due to arrive the following day.

However, this is the point at which things started to unravel.

Crossed wires across channels

On the morning that the flowers were due to arrive, I received an email from the retailer saying that:

“Due to a delay in our delivery network, the order you have placed for delivery today has been delayed by 24 hours”

A bit annoying, but understandable – things go wrong, they apologised and gave me information about when I could expect the delivery. That all seems fine, right? Wrong. I sent them a tweet to ask if I would receive any compensation for the delay, and it seems as if the introduction of this new channel (Twitter, in addition to email) was just too much for them to handle.

First of all, it took two additional tweets from me before I managed to get a response from the Twitter team, which I wasn’t particularly impressed by. When I finally got a response, I was asked to provide my email address and order number, which I duly did.

What happened next was interesting, from a customer experience perspective. I got an email. There was no response on Twitter, not even to say that I would get an email with some more details. It was quite a different experience to what I recently wrote about in regard to Apple’s customer service.

The email from them was very apologetic – and when I say very, I mean very. “We understand we’ve disappointed you…we understand this isn’t what you wanted to hear…it’s not the service you expect…we’ve let you down…we sincerely apologise…we wanted to show just how sorry we are”. In my opinion, the overly apologetic tone dilutes the sincerity of the message, and demonstrates a situation where "less is more".

Regardless, the email informed me that I would be refunded the full cost of the flowers – excellent news, I thought. The flowers would be a day late, but the retailer had salvaged the experience with the very generous compensation.

However, what happened next was equally intriguing: I received a response from the team on Twitter. They told me that they’d looked into it and found out that my order had been cancelled. I asked them (on Twitter) if they could double check and confirm whether or not the flowers would be arriving.

I got a response on the morning that the flowers were now due to arrive, stating that the ordering team had looked into it and it had indeed been cancelled; they once again apologised for any inconvenience. I was quite taken aback - not only had the order been cancelled, but they were now making no attempt to try and re-order it, or even asking if I wanted it to be re-ordered.

I had previously told them on Twitter that the flowers were an anniversary gift, so I was quite disappointed that the customer service team on Twitter were unwilling (or unempowered) to try and save this experience. 

The disconnected retailer

What I’ve spoken about so far has demonstrated a disconnect between their internal teams, with responses coming from different channels at different times. However – and at risk of sounding like a clickbait article title – you won’t believe what happened next. I received an email from the delivery courier saying that my delivery was on its way!

Clearly, the message from the retailer that the order had been cancelled came in too late to make it into the courier's systems before it was dispatched. In this instance, that didn’t matter (in fact, it was better that way), but in other situations where it is important that cancellation notices reach the distributors (e.g. when dealing with baby products and potentially sensitive situations) this break in the chain could be incredibly damaging for a brand.

At this point, I would normally be inclined to trust the message from the delivery courier and ignore the miscommunications from the retailer. However, in the original email from the retailer (where they informed me of the 24-hour delay), they stated the following:

“You may receive another email letting you know that your order is on its way - please ignore this.”

And so I was once again in delivery limbo. Which communication was telling the truth? Would my delivery arrive that day? Would it ever arrive? In the end, the delivery was made later that day and when looked at in isolation, a mere 24-hour delay in delivery in return for a full refund would normally be a fair trade-off. However, the entire experience was so fraught with problems and exhausting that the compensation bears little impact on my opinion of the whole transaction.

Post-Purchase Problems

It may just have been a series of unfortunate events, but I can’t help but laugh at the post-purchase experience either. I received an email from the retailer earlier this week asking me to review my purchase, and so I jumped at the chance. However, clicking on the link to review gave me this:

Not one to be deterred, I tried again and the second time, the page loaded. I searched the page for a button or link that I could click to commence the survey / review. Unfortunately, all that I was rewarded with was a spinning wheel of perpetuity and a tiny annotation stating “Submission currently unavailable”. 

Unfortunately, this overall experience has left me disheartened and unlikely to order flowers from this particular retailer again. It’s especially frustrating because there were several opportunities for the experience to be saved, but either the technology or processes prevented this from happening.

It’s a definite area for improvement for the retailer, and I'm sure I'm not alone in experiencing these frustrations. In fact, this was the second time I was offered a full refund for delayed flower delivery from this particular retailer. Fail me once, shame on you. Fail me twice…shame on you still. 

About the author

Christopher Baird
Christopher Baird
Christopher is a Senior Consultant in the Customer Engagement & Loyalty Centre of Excellence. He specialises in multi-channel retailing, CRM, customer loyalty and user experience, and is passionate about the Consumer Products and Retail sectors.

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