Friday, December 14, 2007
Online service experiences
With all of the online shopping I've been doing recently, the deliveries from UPS and USPS are now coming to me directly and regularly. Ever since I left specific delivery instructions on a post-it a month ago, I'm no longer getting the supposed "missed you" notices I used to get even though I was home.
Today I encountered different experiences with 2 major online retailers, Zappos.com and Red Envelope. I have been ordering from Red Envelope for about the past 4 years. I first knew of them from my dot-com days when they were 911Gifts.com. When they changed their name to Red Envelope, I thought it was an excellent choice, since the name is taken from a long standing Asian tradition. As a child, I got red envelopes regularly on Chinese New Year.
Up until today, I've never had to exchange or return anything at Red Envelope. I bought Lisa's and Michael's wedding gift from there. She told me she read my blog entry from December 4 and graciously asked if it was OK to return my gift. I said of course. So after I got off the phone with Lisa, I went online to Red Envelope to get a Return Authorization Number (Gift Return number to Red Envelope).
The website said to call Customer Service to get the Gift Return number. But when I saw the Chat Online option, I decided to try it. I used it once for an REI order where I mistakenly entered San Diego rather than San Carlos for store pickup. My experience online with the REI rep was quick and pleasant. Got everything wrapped up in less than 10 minutes.
Because this week is reaching critical stage for holiday shopping, I'm willing to cut a bit of slack, but the Chat Online experience at Red Envelope was less than satisfactory. It took about 5 minutes before I got a rep named Mustafa. I immediately wrote that I needed a Gift Return number. It took Mustafa another 5 minutes to tell me I need to be transferred to Whitney. After another 5 minutes, I got Rae Ann instead. When I wrote AGAIN that I need a Gift Return number, Rae Ann told me I needed to CALL customer service. I said OK and closed the chat.
This is what gets me. I call Red Envelope customer service. A person named (I kid you not) Rae Ann answers the phone. I don't understand why I couldn't get the Gift Return number via chat. I went back to the Return + Exchanges policy to see if I erred in reading the instructions. The website does say to call, but it doesn't specifically state that you can't chat.
My other online experience is with mega-shoe purveyor Zappos.com. I've known about them for a few years, but mostly kept my shoe ordering to Nordstrom.com. But when I kept seeing FREE OVERNIGHT shipping everytime I went to the site, it pulled me in. I just returned my Eddie Bauer boots, and last night I decided to try Zappos.com out. It took me awhile before I finally decided on what I wanted as 3 previous pairs of shoes I liked were sold out. Ah, the demands of Christmas.
At 8:04 p.m., I got a confirmation e-mail that my order had been placed. At 11:58 p.m., I got my UPS Overnight tracking number. At 10:30 am this morning, UPS delivered my shoes. Wow, extremely comfy. I am still floored at the FREE OVERNIGHT shipping. ZERO SHIPPING FEE. OVERNIGHT. Even got friendly instructions advising to try on the shoes on carpet to minimize wear so that returns can be made easily.
I wish I was told this when I bought a pair of Ecco loafers at an unnamed shoe store in San Mateo's Hillsdale Mall 3 years ago. I wore them outside for a few minutes. When I realized they didn't fit as I thought, I went back the NEXT day in an attempt to exchange, NOT RETURN them. The store manager bitched that he wouldn't be able to resell the shoes, how expensive they were, etc. I yelled back and told him Nordstrom's located 2 doors down would take the shoes back without the attitude. He finally relented, apologized because he was having a bad day. I ended up exchanging the Eccos for a pair of Dansko clogs I absolutely love. But I will NEVER shop at that store again.
OK Lani, deep breaths now. As a longtime retail finance professional who's talked to hundreds of customers, it's something I get passionate about. While I can't argue about the lack of intelligence and compassion of many sales associates, customers are just as bad. STORES Magazine Executive Editor Susan Reda recently blogged about a recent shopping experience.
I'll stop for tonight. Happy Shopping!