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Monday, December 17, 2007

E-Shopping Expectations: What About The Customer?

'Tis the season for frantic purchases.

For us, it's also - because we have a Thanksgiving child - the season for returns. And I am tremendously grateful for hassle-free returns.

Right now, I am frustrated with HearthSong. Yes, they have cute stuff. But, they sure are hard to do exchanges with.

In fact, they are so difficult that I encourage anyone who isn't purchasing with the express approval of the recipient to stay away.

Why you ask?

Here's how their returns operate:

+ I can return gifts.
+ I cannot make an exchange.
+ I may receive a certificate, only good at HearthSong, for separate purchases. But, I must wait until I receive my certificate to make the new purchases. I only get my certificate after shipping back my gifts, and waiting for HearthSong to receive my return. I can only ship once I obtain a return shipping label.

Technically, I shouldn't even be receiving a certificate. I had to obtain special approval from the manager. At least, that's positive.

Technically, the giftor [my sister-in-law] should have been contacted for approval. Talk about a potentially messy scenario. Luckily, she knows I'm making a return, but still.

It's not as if I stole the merchandise. We received it as a gift and legitimately need to return it. Isn't that reasonable?

Kind of a clunky policy, don't you think?

In fact, so clunky that I almost did what I did last time this happened with this merchant [I knew there was something familiar about this whole scenario], and said 'forget about it, this isn't worth the effort.'

This time, though, I thought I should also share my tale with you.

So, I ask you. How do you handle returns?

How clunky is your experience, especially from your customer's perspective? I hope it's better than HearthSong's.

Returns represent an important part of your overall retail buying experience. It's one of those consumer touch points that can make or break how positively you are perceived. It's one of those opportunities for truly cementing a strong relationship with a customer. Think on the stories you've heard about the Nordstrom customer service experience. Delicious details that forge relationship and create word-of-mouth buzz.

If you're not quite sure, then read this Business Week article from 11/21/2007 titled In Small Biz, There's No Small Stuff, When it comes to customer service, take a tip from a good police chief: The small things can be just as important as the high-profile ones by Keith McFarland. It will certainly put into perspective how critical details are in the overall customer service experience.

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Unknown said...

Returns are a necessary evil in the eye of the retailer, as well as a necessity in the eye of the customer (unless you do a lot of "re-gifting"!).

Embracing customer returns is the best way to handle it. That means making that part of the customer experience just as good as the rest of the experience.

Companies that immediately come to mind about being good with returns are Costco, Nordstrom, Coldwater Creek, and Zappos. Hey, I think you have inspired me for a post-Christmas post! :-)

Keep rockin', CB, and Merry Christmas!!

CB Whittemore said...

Becky, thanks for adding your perspective... I can't wait to read your take on this subject! Merry Christmas to you, too.

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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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