Sunday, February 17

Customer Disservice

I have spent more than half of my life working in the service industry, would that gives me an unrealistic expectation for service? I, sometimes, wonder. As a customer, as well as an insider of the industry, the basic rule of customer service is simple: Keep your customer satisfied and you could do no wrong.

On 14 Feb, 2013, I walked into CK Calvin Klein store located on the 3rd level of Ion Orchard to buy a Valentine’s Day present for my husband. I must admit, I am really bad at buying gifts, so I had a hard time going through the selection of men’s belt, trying hard to decide which design to buy and what size to get. I went home with a size 36, slate-colored belt with a silver buckle.

I was told at check-out, I could bring it back for an exchange if the size doesn’t fit, but it had to be done within 3 days. The person who served me also put down a remark on my receipt to assure me that I have nothing to worry when it comes to the size. I left the store pleased.

However, it turned out that the belt was too long for my husband and I was disappointed to realize that I had actually bought him a rather similar belt before. What a terrible wife I am!

Hence this evening (three days from my initial visit), I returned to the same store with my husband, armed with the brand new belt (still in the wrapper) and the receipt, I was hopeful to make an exchange, perhaps to another belt which my husband would be happier to own.

A Sale Asst. (a pregnant lady) approached us while we were browsing the belt’s selection; when my husband expressed his desire to make an exchange; this Sale Asst. told us coldly that she could only allow exchange to another size. We asked if she could make an exception, because the item was totally brand new (still sitting inside the wrapper) and most importantly it was meant to be a present.

Still expressionless, she said she would check and walked away from us, disappearing behind a corner. We waited patiently for her reappearance, only to be greeted by her bad news. She informed us that our request to exchange for other designs couldn’t be entertained; she can only change the belt for a smaller size. And then instead of apologizing, she went on and on trying to explain that the exchange was not possible due to the system and it’s the merchandise code. blah, blah, blah. Quite honestly, as a customer, I didn’t pay your company to hear about your internal inflexibility or a seemingly incompetent POS system!

So we gave up and agreed to settle for a smaller size belt of the same design. The exchange took a long time (because of the system again!), while during the wait, my husband asked to look at the company’s return policy and was told there isn’t anything in print. My husband commented that it was puzzling for a company to allow exchange but set such rigid limitation. In these days, retail scene is all about service excellence and he couldn’t understand why pleasing a customer is just so hard here at Calvin Klein, Ion Orchard.

At this time, the gentleman (I think he is a senior staff) who served me when I bought the belt, approached us and tried to understand the matter. Through him, we learnt that exchanging to another design can be done, except they would need their manager’s approval. But this option wasn’t made known to us earlier, despite us asking for it.

The same Sale Asst. who handled our exchange spoke, but it would be better if she hadn’t spoken. “So now you want to exchange to other belts or not?”

I shook my head. The damage has already been done. It’s not about the exchange any more; she has created a disastrous shopping experience for us. What was supposed to be a happy memory of Valentine’s Day has now been reduced to an unforgettable retail disappointment.

I am a mother of two, and being in the front line of service industry for donkey years before I took on training and development,  I can fully understand that being pregnant and constantly on one’s feet can be overwhelming, but that’s doesn’t automatically give her the leeway to upset the customers.

Consumers’ satisfaction is the #1 priority to most, if not all, retail businesses. I wrote to Club 21 (both on FB and thru email) and suggested the company look into retraining their staff and empowering them to make decisions that can delight their customers. 

Haven't you already know, “If you don’t take care of your customer, someone else will.”

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