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Monday, August 22, 2011

Customer Service Reality Check: Arthur Corbin Responds

Customer Service Reality Check: Arthur Corbin Responds
My recent post - Customer Service Reality Check: Best Quality or Not? struck a chord with Arthur Corbin, retail and lighting wizard. Here is his response. [See Arthur's previous posts.]



This company has been looking at what they do to provide goods as a negative and as a nuisance instead of an essential part of the goods and services they should provide with a smile.

This is a company I would not do business with.

Today's consumer is in the driver's seat with multiple sources for similar or identical products.

The keys to happy consumers are service, responsiveness, flexibility, and a smile. Purchasing must be easy. Delivery must be convenient for the consumer. Delivery people must be clean, courteous, careful when in the customer's home or business, and engaging.

Every person working for the supplier is an ambassador for the company and must act accordingly.

I think of Ironware International owned by Karin Eaton (history and background on the site). She is remarkable, poised, and engaging.

Here is the ordering page link http://www.ironwareinternational.com/content/orderingpolicies. Neutral language in clear sections cover all contingencies.

The key is the showroom that works with the designer and creates the order. The local showroom is Sloan Miyasato. The person working with Ironware is Patrice and she is exceptional.

Ironware realized that delivery times are shrinking as the clients of designers ask for interior design work to be completed in weeks not months. Karin responded by analyzing her sales and selecting 34 items that she guarantees to ship in 2 to 4 weeks. One finish and one style of each item is available for quick ship but this is what most orders have been for. Quick ship has been a big success for Karin and is typical of the changes in what had been a slow moving supply chain with long lead times.

I now work at a major department store in the home department. Consumers are short tempered, and they want the lowest price (they are aggressive with coupons, price adjustments, and telling you what price they want to pay).

This retailer has merged online and location ordering systems into one system. This system can be used to locate an item and can then ship the item (free shipping if order is $50.00 or more). The on line and location pricing does not always match and the store internet system is often not working. I often use customer's smart phones to check the web site to confirm a lower price.

Example: a $150- item was on clearance at $16.00 from the warehouse plus $6.00 shipping. The customer objected to the $6.00 shipping charge and to my failure to apply a posted 10% additional discount (that was the next screen in the ordering process). I politely reminded her that she was buying a $150.00 item for less than $20.00 and she backed off. This happens thousands of times daily in 800 stores and this is one retailer.

Some of this customer aggressiveness can be attributed to this retailer's bewildering number of coupons and offers, rebates, and cash back programs. Consumers are annoyed at the retailer and thus at me for items that do not qualify for a discount, at coupons that have expired, and at coupons with lots of small type (all of them). Yet, coupons, rebates, and special offers pack the stores with buyers.

Service with a positive attitude, easy and free delivery, short or no delivery lead time, and a competitive price are what consumers are looking for. Multiple ordering channels are a must. 24 hour ordering is a must.
  • Services are disappearing. Gift wrap is gone. Local stock of high end goods (fine china as an example) is mostly gone.
  • Trained sales people with product knowledge is the exception and low pay is one of many reasons.
  • Many consumer goods are the same or similar from retail store to retail store. Excitement and enchantment is mostly gone from retail.
That's the report and response from California.

Best wishes,

In a followup message, Arthur refers us to Now what? UPS threatens to return my shipment, won’t let me correct address - a preposterous, real life story affecting a customer's service experience.

Thank you, Arthur.

What's your reaction to Customer Service Reality Check? How do you balance supplier and customer pressures in today's marketplace? What are you doing differently to deliver memorable customer service and customer experiences?

Let me know in the comments.


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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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