Here's the short version scenario:
I haven't been in a Kmart in years. In fact, I'm not sure where there's even a store down here. However, we got a request for the newest baby in the family, and it was a particular kind of play table. Sheila found it online at Kmart.com and ordered it on December 4. It was plenty of time to get it here for a Christmas gift and then get it to our family in Ohio.
Well, it never came. Calling on or about the 21st, I spoke to Kmart's "top notch" customer service people in the Philippines. They were useless, but suggested I wait one more day since they did show a UPS label had been printed. The next day I called again and, this time got lucky with an office in Alabama. The rep there couldn't tell me anything either, but we were at least able to cancel the order.
I then filed a protest with American Express, which they promptly put through. Kmart had charged the order to Sheila's card the minute it was placed. This past Saturday I got a letter from Amex telling me the full credit hadn't been put through due to Kmart.com charging for one of three reasons - a partial return, restocking fee or a shipping and handling fee. Remember, they never shipped the product!
This is hardly a serious challenge, but there are some great lessons for every business owner.
- Handle problems on the first call as much as possible. The Philippines crew had no access to any information, and the best they could do was contact a distribution center via email.
- If you've got staff give them the ability/authority to resolve problems. Don't make the consumer call back for a follow-up.
- Last on the list - know your inventory, shipping times and charges. I was told this wasn't being shipped directly from Kmart, but a third party. There are few things worse than dealing with somebody representing a company who knows virtually nothing about the products and procedures they're supposed to represent.
Great service is one of your strongest tools in building your brand. When you do have a challenge, work to fix it as quickly as possible. Deliver things on time, and as promised. Most important of all, remember you'll never lose if you exceed client expectations.
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