No Way to Treat Customers

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 18:30 PM

By Samuel Greengard

A few weeks ago, while preparing to leave from Seattle for an international trip, my back began aching. Bracing for a long flight and a string of nights sleeping on less-than-ideal hotel mattresses, I decided to purchase an ergonomic seat cushion. Although I had never shopped at Relax the Back before, I knew about the company and decided to stop by one of its stores in Lynnwood, Wash.

It was a Sunday, so I pulled out my iPhone and checked the company's Website for the store hours. It stated that the location was open from noon to 5 p.m., so I hopped in the car and drove for nearly 45 minutes to get to the store.

When I arrived, the store was dark and had a sign posted that it is closed on Sundays. I then had to spend another 45 minutes traveling back to the hotel. Waste of time, waste of gasoline, waste of money. Plus, it was then too late to go to another store because I had a flight to catch.

I'm not sure how a company manages to have the wrong store hours posted on its Website. Somehow, the company's IT systems don't seem to be linked to the business in a real-world way.

But the poor customer service didn't stop there. Upon returning home, I again visited the Relax the Back Website and submitted a note explaining the situation. It's now two weeks later, and I haven't heard a peep. No note. No coupon or certificate. Nothing. Worse, the Website continues to display the wrong information about the store's hours.

This certainly isn't a formula for snaring new customers. Prior to this encounter, I had even considered purchasing a pricey ergonomic chair from the company. Scratch that.

Unfortunately, incidents like this are all too common. Despite the best intentions of business and IT executives, glitches, breakdowns and full-fledged meltdowns are the new normal. IT systems don't talk to each other, people work in silos and there's no quality assurance process for customer support. In some cases, the business is measuring and tracking the wrong things.

Yes, mistakes and oversights are going to take place from time to time. But when a retailer can't post the right hours on its Website and can't reply to customer emails and respond to complaints, it's not reducing the pain: It's creating more pain.