Customer experience when things go wrong

Customer experience – when things go wrong!

I have done my grocery shopping online for many years.  I can’t remember the last time I did a ‘big shop’ in an actual supermarket.  Online grocery shopping for me is quicker and easier and provides a better customer experience than pushing a trolley up and down the aisles of a crowded supermarket.  The service is reliable and convenient: the online supermarket have consistently delivered good service over the years.

Recently, something went wrong.  I booked a delivery to a different location to usual.  The location was hard to find, so I included instructions.  The delivery driver still tried to deliver to the wrong place.

How not to handle problems

When I rang first the driver and then the supermarket, they were unable to help.  The driver was rude and defensive and refused to admit they had gone to the wrong property.  They said it was ‘out of their way’ and ‘did not have time’ to return to us, despite being at fault in the first place.

Customer services were useless and claimed they had no control over the driver or their route.  The delivery couldn’t be redelivered within the original time slot as the driver had moved on to other orders and couldn’t (wouldn’t) reroute back to us.  Not a great customer experience given it was their mistake in the first place.

Despite all the years of good service and hitherto great customer experience, this annoyed me.  We had arrived in a holiday cottage expecting and needing a delivery of essential provisions.  It was evening, the cupboards were bare, the nearest supermarket was 20 minutes away and we had a hungry child to feed.  But customer services seemed unable to fix the problem.

Worse, an automated email stated that because there was ‘no response at my property’, the order was cancelled and was charged for the perishable items.  To so quickly write off the order 2 minutes after the delivery was ‘attempted’ and tell us we are liable for perishables was annoying.

Arranging redelivery was another hassle.  I was offered a three-hour slot the following morning or evening and was told ‘evening was more convenient for the depot’.  Surely, they should be trying to offer what was more convenient for the customer?

A soured customer experience

I was promised a refund and a redelivery next day, as well as £10 compensation off my next order.  £10 compensation seemed insulting given the time we spent on the phone to the driver and customer services, the fact we had to go out (in an unfamiliar location) to find food for that evening and the next morning and ended up over £50 out of pocket.  Not a great start to our holiday.  I was shocked at how badly the situation was handled and the effort involved in sorting it out.

I’ve spent £1000s with this online supermarket each year.  I recommend them to everyone.  Products are good, deliveries are good.  Things go wrong sometimes, I get that, but it’s how that problem is dealt with that makes a difference.  Rude delivery drivers, unhelpful robotic call centre staff and hasty automated emails before the facts are known do not engender customer loyalty but sour the customer experience.  Promising refunds and not providing them is sloppy.  And token £10 vouchers given the huge inconvenience (and bad start to our holiday) is insulting.

So what can companies learn from this?

Firstly, ensure customer facing staff represent the brand in a positive manner.  The driver on this occasion was rude, unhelpful, defensive and claimed we were at fault.

Secondly, have the processes in place to fix things when they go wrong.  Having no control over drivers seems crazy.  Being able to offer a convenient redelivery when the customer isn’t at fault is vital.  Provide timely refunds when promised.

Thirdly, show empathy for the customer and the situation.  We were in an unfamiliar location, tired after a long drive, had no food or drink and a hungry child.  Neither the driver nor customer services made any concession to this.  An understanding of our situation would have smoothed the way a little.

And finally, offer (meaningful) compensation to customers to make amends for the issue.  The £10 initially offered simply didn’t go far enough to make up for the problem.  This was however increased to £25 when I complained.  Meaningful compensation can pay dividends in retaining customers.

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