Brick and Mortar and E-commerce: Customer Service Glitches?

Recently, I shopped at two large retailers and experienced customer service glitches with both stores.  At one retailer, a national department store chain, I wanted to purchase a sport coat at their website’s advertised price.  The department store associate tried to key in their website price for the sport coat, but their system would not accept it.  Unable to complete the sale, the store associate told me I should order the coat on their website and have it shipped, which I did.

With the other retailer, a national shoe chain, I had to return some insoles.  The store associate could not find the item in their inventory system and asked that I contact their online customer service for help, which I did.  In both cases, the retail companies had to pay additional transaction and shipping costs, which could have been avoided if their store personnel had been able to process the items.

While there are some exceptions, much has been written about the decline of brick and mortar locations and the upward trend of e-commerce.  It will be interesting to watch the retail landscape in the coming years to see which companies and modalities can deliver superior value to their customers. An important principle for customer service comes from Proverbs 18:9 (ERV): “Someone who does careless work is as bad as someone who destroys things.”  Careless customer service can cause new and longtime loyal customers to defect. Both e-commerce sites and brick and mortar stores need to have the necessary resources in place to avoid customer service failures like the two mentioned earlier; if not, customers will continue to flock to locations where they receive the best value.

Questions to ask regarding your organization’s customer service:

  • How does your organization’s customer service measure the value provided to customers?
  • Are the organization’s employees adequately trained to handle customer service?
  • When a customer service problem happens, how quickly (and appropriately) does your company resolve the issue?

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