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The Christmas Retail Season in Review Part 1: Online Shopping Tips for Planning and Order Placement

Posted on January 14, 2009 by Archives

In light of the Christmas season just passing, my customer service team and I experienced a high volume of unhappy and "angry" customers.
The majority of the customer frustrations came from last minute shopping. Orders were placed with the expectation that the products would be received on a specific day. To the surprise of the customer some items would not be in stock and some would even be on back order, due to the amount of popular items being purchased. As you can imagine, when customers found out the item(s) on their order were not in stock, the typical response was "This was a Christmas gift, and you guys have messed it up."
In our customer service department we strive to do the best with what tools we have and what has been made available to us. Everyone works their hardest and to the best of their ability. But we have all realized that in the online world of shopping, to customers, a lot of times that is not good enough. Customers who shop online seem to have a higher expectation of great customer service, and every year the bar they set seems to rise.  I hate to see unhappy customers and I sometimes want to let them know that their situation could have been avoided if they would have just read the description of the product, read our shipping and returns policies and planned their orders appropriately.  Yet, in the midst of their dismay I don’t say these things because in all honesty I really do want to make them happy and hopefully resolve whatever issue they may be encountering.

As a customer service representative, at times it can become very stressful and discouraging when you are continually dealing with "angry" or "unhappy" customers, day after day. I mean regardless of how many customers that amounts to every week, even if it is only one, that customer situation sticks with you far longer than the customer that emails to say “thank you”.  Its human nature and it can be hard to shake off.  Here at Gordian Project all of our reps have taken this challenge in stride, and they do their best, every time, to help the customer as much as they can. We see it as an area to improve and do better, if we did not, we would eventually become defeated. Not just as a company and department, but emotionally as well.
I have wondered how many of our actual customers read our blog, especially the customer service section? There are plenty of articles written on what a customer should look out for when making an online purchase, but not many that give tips on actually planning your purchases.  After making a list of the most common complaints and frustrations our customer’s experience, I thought I would write down a few ways of avoiding such frustrations.  I settled on a list of a few tips for any consumer who is considering making an online purchase, especially a purchase that will be needed by a certain date.
Tip 1:
Keep track of your account information and log in to check order status. Most websites, including ours, make it easy for you to see the status of your order by simply logging in to an account. A lot of customers get angry waiting on hold to check status of their order and do not realize they can find it themselves by logging into their account.
Tip 2:
Call centers experience high call volumes, especially during the holidays, even with increased staffing. As a consumer, if you are unable to get through, leave a voicemail, and you will generally be called back within one business day. Many customers get upset because they continue to hold, or instead try to continually call, hang up and keep calling back. If you do not need an immediate answer and can wait a business day, leaving a voicemail will save you call and wait time.
Tip 3:
Using our LivePerson live chat feature is one of our greatest tools. Customers can chat with an online rep who will assist them in real time and in the same exact way a rep will on the phones. Many customers think they must speak to someone on the phone to get an answer, when in reality they will get the same exact service via our live chat feature.
Tip 4:
I would say this is my greatest tip to any customer, whether you are our customer or shopping elsewhere. Read the returns policy.
I will admit I never really read or paid attention to any company's or stores return policy until I started working here. You can bet that I do now, and I actually do read them, even if I only scan through the important points.
I would say a good percentage of our customers fail to read our returns policy, this creates stress and trouble for not only the customer but the representative as well. We want to help customers in any way we can, but in all reality, there are policies we have to stick to.
It makes us very happy and encourages us when a customer calls and says, I read your return policy which states "X, Y, and Z", is there anything you can do for me? This shows the customer understands our policies and is asking for some type of exception. At which point we try and do what we can to help them or come to a solution that favors both the company and customer. As a customer please understand there are some policies we simply cannot break or make an exception to, but we will try our best. This is why it is always best to read companies return policy.

There are definitely areas that retailers can improve on, us included, but as someone who sees both sides of the equation as an online consumer and an online customer service representative, it is my hope that these tips not only assist the consumer but the customer service representative as well.


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