How not to engage with customers

I don’t profess to be any sort of marketing or customer service guru. That said, having spent the best part of a decade working in retail, I know a little about managing customer relationships and expectations. 

At the weekend my daughter fell in love with a certain pair of Converse shoes (for those of you that care, they’re the waterfall blue, double tongued variety).  The thing is, the shop that we were in didn’t have her size and so when we got home we went on the internet and eventually found a pair at a shop called Ozzy’s & Archive. Click, click, credit card. Job done.

Until Monday evening when I received an email saying,

“Hi Neil,

Thanks for your recent order of the Converse shoes!

Some bad news im afraid. We have just gone out of stock with this shoe!

We are changing our stock system and some so we are having to manually change stock levels on the site for now, unfortunately you placed an order before we had chance to change your items stock levels online.

Its upto you what you would like to do. Whether you want to choose another item to replace the shoes, or just have your order cancelled. Whatever you want, just let me know!

Again, sorry for the hassle,

Something about the tone really got to me (maybe the excessive use of exclamation marks).  As a customer, I don’t really care what your systems issues are, that is the rational explanation that YOU have for YOUR service failure, it isn’t the emotional attachment that I had with the product that (in my mind) I had already bought. And to compound this, there was there was no recognition of the disappointment – just a choose something else or get your money back standard response.

On the bottom of the email, however I noticed a Facebook page. So I thought I’d check it out. I “liked” the page (which felt somewhat counter intuitive…but hey!) and saw that there was a post about not winning a Retailer of the Year award. At this point you’ll understand I felt obliged to post something, so I wrote a comment on their wall:

Sadly rubbish customer service from Ozzy’s and Archive. You are a long way from Retailer of the Year if you can’t show your stock levels correctly on the site, take an order and then respond with a “choose a different product or have your money back” routine. One lost customer.

I checked back a little while later and lo and behold……my comment had disappeared.  Censorship? Well hang on a minute….so I wrote another comment:

Hi there, I wrote some feedback on here about the poor customer service that I received from Ozzy’s and Archive but it seems to have disappeared. Surely you haven’t deleted it?

And then things just got worse……within 10 minutes that comment was taken down too and my ability to post anything on that page was revoked.

Clearly someone didn’t want people to see any bad comments about their service. Which is what brings me here to write about this today.  The world with social media is a conversation, you might be able to constrain what people see or hear (to a certain extent) but you can’t control what they say.  And ignoring a negative situation, surely doesn’t change how people feel.

Engaging with customers that are disappointed and upset is as, if not more, important than engaging with customers that are advocates.  You can try to control the message, but somehow it will always get out. So wouldn’t it be better in the first place to engage?

Ozzy’s and Archive gave me bad customer service. It wasn’t abysmal, but it was pretty ropey. Through the way that they’ve handled it, however, they have turned a disgruntled customer into someone who wants to write about it and tell the world what a rubbish company he thinks they are. They had a choice how they reacted and treated me and they chose to try to make the problem go away.

Sadly for them, it didn’t.

As a side note, Ozzy’s emailed me again last night elaborating on their justification for their failure, but sadly I can’t reply as their Mailbox quota has been exceeded (how many more customer service crimes can one company commit?). If you want to see the screen prints of the various comments then you can see them below (I don’t normally take screen prints – as you can tell from the other tab open on the first one! – but funnily I had a hunch about this. Oh and I no longer like their page……but Maddy does have a new pair of Converse on the way to her……just from a different shop.

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13 comments

  1. Oli · June 14, 2011

    What really concerns me about this companies facebook page, is the language used in their dissapointment of not winning an award. Yes the lack of engagement is stupid and clearly they have messed with the wrong man. But why swear like that, for no reason?

    If they have an actual shop (I don’t know if they do, nor do i care) I can’t believe the manager would be happy with shop staff saying to customers that they were “f****ing ace”

    Seriously concering!

    • Sustainably Lush · June 14, 2011

      I think its simply a marketing position you don’t like. Their attitude may appeal to their target market and may in fact be successful. I wouldn’t assume that this is something done flippantly without looking through a lot of the wall history. I’d imagine you find more examples because they are appealing to a young, anti-establishment subculture where the swearing and the swagger would be respected.

    • Neil · June 22, 2011

      I think the whole outfit is just amateur to be honest.

  2. Doug ShawDoug Shaw · June 14, 2011

    They really screwed up here eh? Mistakes happen. Such is life. How folks address and recover from mistakes speaks volumes about what they really think (and don’t think) about customer service. Choosing to remove your comments from the FB page instead of at least trying to address them sucks.

    • Sustainably Lush · June 14, 2011

      Mistakes are an unavoidable consequence of being human, and they occur in every business. I agree wholeheartedly, Doug. A mistake with a proper resolution can actually increase my loyalty because now I have a trust and expectation of how mistakes will be handled. I’m less certain dealing with a provider who hasn’t yet made a mistake. The first one could be a horrible experience rather than an inconvenience they make right.

      • Neil · June 22, 2011

        I agree that recovery can often increase loyalty. Sadly they kept on compounding their poor service.

    • Neil · June 22, 2011

      They suck….as you say Doug! 🙂

  3. Johanna Ratcliffe · June 14, 2011

    Grrrr… the tone of that email reply you received initially is irritating on many levels. Way too flippant.

    However interesting ‘Brand Converse’ remained unscathed! I wonder how much they (Converse) pay attention to how well their retailers are doing in terms of keeping customers happy? Glad you managed to track down the perfect pair elsewhere…

    • Neil · June 22, 2011

      Thanks Johanna….that email really got to me, as you say it was just a little to flippant!

  4. Laurie Ruettimann · June 14, 2011

    Send me the size and I’ll get you a pair over here in America and ship it over.

    • Neil · June 22, 2011

      Sorted now Laurie, but thanks ever so much.

  5. Cal · June 15, 2011

    I believe that one of the strengths of social media is in being able to turn negatives INTO positives – this is phenomenally powerful. As this very case shows, deleting negative comments generates significantly more negative attention than if they were to leave it there, deal with it, and turn that bad experience into a positive one.

    We once had a negative comment on our company blog – a candidate was clearly unhappy, and we wanted to find out why. We spoke with them through the blog comments function and then our CEO actually picked up the phone and called them personally to speak about why they were unhappy.

    The result? A candidate who was amazed the CEO cared enough to pick up the phone and speak to them personally and a resulting blog post / tweets from the individual concerned praising us for our customer service and how we rectified a bad experience.

    Transparency is VITAL – otherwise your ‘social’ media is simply just, well, ‘media’.

    • Neil · June 22, 2011

      Cal – that is a brilliant example of how to turn things around. This was a brilliant example of how not to…..

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