I recently had two opposite experiences that illustrate how important customer service is, especially in this day and age. Even though it happened more recently, I want to start with Gilt Taste first.
I should preface the story with: I recently moved and while I made a list of all the sites and services I needed to update, I clearly was not able to remember or get to them all. A few weeks ago I was doing some Christmas shopping. I found what I wanted on Gilt Taste and felt comfortable ordering from them because of my positive experiences on Gilt.com. I realized a few days after placing the order that it was being shipped to my old apartment. This was my fault because I had my (old) home address stored in Gilt and as a convenience feature, they offer a fairly quick checkout so there aren’t many layers of checks to slow you down. You can see how this can be a pro as well as a con (you don’t have a chance to catch mistake). Excuses aside, this was totally my fault. I saw that the item would not arrive for at least 5 days, giving plenty of time to correct it.
I emailed them to make the correction and about a day later, I received a response from a customer service rep that said they are not able to help because items are shipped from a supplier and they have no control over it. Also, she added, since the correct address was so close maybe I could figure out a way to pick it up or something.
This surprised me on many levels. First of all, it is not at all unheard of for a shipper to make a correction to or re-route a package. In fact, UPS (the shipper in this case), offers this functionality online. I also was surprised that the CSR gave up so easily. An enterprising one would have contacted the shipper and let them know so they could correct it. At the very least, I expected her to give me the name of the supplier so I could contact them myself.
It’s also possible for the recipient to make a address correction. However, this particular situation is a little bit more complicated. UPS requires that a failed delivery has to be made before any correction could be made. There are currently new tenants in my old apartment and knowing the UPS driver, he was likely to leave the package there. That means the tenants would come home from work and see a package with a stranger’s name on it and probably send it back. Then Gilt Taste would be confused and I would have to probably spend more money getting it re-shipped.
What I finally did to fix all this was find out the name of their supplier. In this case it was JDY Gourmet. It’s listed in small print in the corner of a graphic on the product page. I wasn’t even sure this was really the correct supplier but I Googled the name and came up with a company based on Chicago. I took a gamble I left a message on their web form. I also left messages on Gilt Taste’s Twitter account. The next thing that happened was interesting. JDY did not reply to me at all. Instead, they contacted Gilt and I got a call from a lady the next morning. She immediately agreed to re-route my package and she refunded me the $4 shipping charge. I thought that was really nice of her. Later, I received an email from a different rep basically saying “Oh it looks like this was handled already.” If it’s not clear by now, Gilt Taste really has no sort of customer tracking. They don’t know which rep handled what or when. They also reply in a very slow manner. I would estimate 24 hours which, to me, is too slow.
Now, I didn’t mention I actually placed a second order a bit after the first. It too had the address error. In the same instance when I emailed them about correcting the address for the first order, I informed them about the problem with the second one. Not having seen a reply for order number two, I emailed them again to avoid the same problem. This time a different CSR answered except her response was a cut and paste of the first message. Everything was identical. I couldn’t believe it.
By now it was too late to correct anything on the second order. I had to contact my old landlord and arrange for them to speak to the new clients to retrieve the package for me. Luckily, it worked out. I went on Twitter to rant and Gilt Support apologized through DM and credited my account for my troubles.
The lesson here is you should empower your customer service representatives to think outside the box (sorry for the cliché) and allow them to help the customer. I think we can all look to Zappos, which basically puts no rules on their reps. Who hasn’t heard the story of a customer being sent flowers because she had a hard to returning shoes in due to her mother’s passing? Also, with social media, it’s no longer a secret if you have bad customer service. Everyone can hear about bad customer service and people do pay attention. Why let it get to that point?
Previous to the Gilt Taste incident, I placed a sizeable order with CB2. In case you don’t know, CB2 is run by Crate and Barrel and it offers quirkier and usually cheaper stuff. Anyway, I was wondering why it was taking so long for my package to arrive. I tracked it to the FedEx center in Ventura (about 40 miles away from where I live). It was there for six days without any movement. I contacted FedEx and the first person to answer was willing and ready to help. They took down my info and told me they’d contact me. Later, I received a voicemail from a gentleman named Frank from FedEx. He worked in a division called the Ground Trace Department. Can you believe that even exists? Yes, they have a whole division responsible for tracking down packages!
He left a very polite and detailed message basically telling me they couldn’t find the package but they are really looking hard for it. He also left a number and asked if I could call it to provide some extra information about the package and that I should also notify CB2 about the case.
I emailed CB2 (not even a phone call) and in less than a day I received a response that basically went like this: “We are so sorry about this problem. We shipped out your replacement order and you should receive it Friday.” Mind you, this was Wednesday so they sent out my (heavy) replacement order with 2nd day air, on their dime. They also told me to not worry about the missing package and it was no longer my concern. I could not believe it. In the meantime, I still felt bad that CB2 lost a package so I called up FedEx and gave the incredibly friendly woman information about the package. They asked what color the items were, if they had any brands or labeling, what the items were made of etc. You can tell that FedEx really cared about trying to locate the package. They were afraid the box might have broken open and they needed a way to identify it from the contents.
My replacement package arrived on time. It was missing an item (a basket) which I expected because the CB2 representative warned me about it. It too arrived two weeks later and it was also shipped 2nd day air, which was completely unnecessary but appreciated. I emailed CB2 to thank them for making this so painless and in response, they apologized again and sent me a gift card for any inconvenience I suffered.
Can you see how differently these two companies handled the situation? One company empowers their reps to do the right thing while the other, well I feel the other doesn’t really take any ownership or pride in their customer service.