We are living in a world where consumer expectation is changing as rapidly as ever before. New technology is enabling people to do what they want, when they want to do it, wherever they happen to be. We crave speed, simplicity and consistency in our interactions. All around the world, this change in consumer expectation is actually picking up pace – even in countries where there has been a cultural acceptance of ‘the way things are’ – people are no longer prepared to tolerate experiences that fail to meet expectation.
Unless they have been living in a cave, leaders of businesses all around the world will have noticed the changes in consumer expectation I am referring to. Not only should they have noticed the change in the way consumers interact with their own organisations, they should have recognised that their own personal needs and expectations have changed. That is right…..business leaders are consumers too…..they just conveniently seem to forget that fact sometimes. I often say that many business leaders would not dream of doing to themselves some of the things they do to their own customers – it is one of the most frustrating things about unacceptable customer experiences.
The fact that business leaders should therefore be completely aware of the things their organisations do that make life difficult for their customers makes it even more remarkable that awful experiences still occur. On an almost weekly basis I am made aware of things that make me shake my head in despair. Only last night (3rd February), I visited a restaurant in London that still delivered the Christmas menu to the table!! What is that about?!
Giving the Christmas menu to a customer on the 3rd February does not make my life as a consumer difficult – it just makes me wonder if the people running that business are actually awake! What is far worse is when companies do things that intentionally or unintentionally make my life more difficult. It makes absolutely NO SENSE to make a customer’s life more difficult – to highlight this, I want to share two case studies with you:
Case Study 1 – Marriott Hotels
At the beginning of January, a very good friend of mine brought a story to my attention that almost made me fall off my chair. A story that is almost so unbelievable, that I feel it is essential for others to learn from it. Marriott Hotels is a business that I have interacted with in the past. A well-known and respected global chain of hotels, it has always served up good experiences for me personally. So when I heard that this seemingly respectable business was trying to INTENTIONALLY block guests from using their own personal wi-fi access in their hotels, I was astounded. Yes – you read that right – Marriott Hotels wanted to prevent guests from using their personal wi-fi in Marriott Hotels. If you do not believe me, have a read of this article in Huffington Post.
In Marriott’s defence, they claim that they had a legitimate reason for taking this action. In a statement they stated the following:
“To set the record straight it has never been nor will it ever be Marriott’s policy to limit our guests’ ability to access the Internet by all available means,” Marriott said in the statement. “The question at hand is what measures a network operator can take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in our meeting and conference spaces that pose a security threat.”
Whether we believe them or not (and many will be highly dubious of their motivation), the action that Marriott was trying to take would intentionally make customers lives more difficult. Why on earth would you want to do that?! If you were faced with the choice of selecting a hotel for a meeting or a conference where wi-fi was completely free (either provided by the hotel or for you to use your own personal wi-fi), or a hotel who intentionally blocked you from using your own wi-fi so you had to pay to use theirs – which hotel would you choose?!
Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission in the US have prevented Marriott Hotels from being able to execute their intended action. The FCC said simply that it was a ‘bad idea’ – you can read about it here. Thank goodness they did. Marriott Hotels insist they thought they were doing the right thing – can they honestly say that if they put themselves in their customers shoes that they would have wanted to be on the receiving end of an idea like that?!
Case Study 2 – Debenhams
My second case study is a story of my own – one that also will make you ‘tut’ vigorously at your computer screens. As one of the UKs largest department stores, most British citizens have visited a Debenhams over the years. In my home town of Chester, we now have two Debenhams stores within ten miles of each other – one in the city centre and one in an out-of-town retail park. A couple of weeks ago, my wife purchased a number of items at Debenhams in the centre of Chester. Like many people, she does not always try clothes on in store – she prefers to do that at home.
Having tried everything on, Naomi decided that she would take some of the items back. At the weekend, one of our three children had to be dropped off at the cinema for a party. As the cinema is on the same retail park as the other Debenhams store, Naomi decided to take the clothes back there at the same time – it would make life much EASIER as parking is free and she could ‘kill two birds with one stone’.
You can probably guess that it was not quite as easy as she expected. When Naomi approached the cash desk to hand the clothes back, she really did not expect the response she received. ‘Sorry’, said the Debenhams employee, ‘we cannot accept these items back at this store’. Before I tell you why, have a look at the receipt that Naomi handed to the sales assistant:
There is nothing on that receipt to suggest that Naomi would not be able to take any of the items back. The reason why the sales assistant said that she could not take one of the items back was because the item was sold by a concession – the concession in question is Warehouse. Debenhams in Cheshire Oaks does not have a Warehouse concession – the sales assistant was therefore advising that Naomi would only be able to take the item back to a Debenhams that does – in either Chester or Liverpool. Unbelievable!!!! Naomi’s transaction was with DEBENHAMS – not Warehouse. It quite clearly says DEBENHAMS at the top of the receipt. Concession or not – it is not of the customers concern. This ridiculous ‘process’ or ‘policy’ can only cause confusion and unnecessary effort for the customer. It can only make the customers life more difficult, To return an item purchased in DEBENHAMS had now become a whole lot more complicated.
It makes no sense at all. It is quite frankly madness. All of Naomi’s items were bought from concessions – she must therefore be one of many customers who have been faced with the same problem. If a Debenhams director had experienced what Naomi did, would they be happy with the outcome?
Making life difficult for your customers just does not make sense. It can only lead to anger, disappointment and resentment. It can only lead to customers not wanting to transact with you again the future. Making life more difficult for your customers will have a fundamental effect on the emotional component of their experience – it is what they will remember. Negative memories can only lead to lost business.
Thankfully, Marriott Hotels were blocked from doing something that almost defies belief – however the simple fact they thought it was a good idea has completely changed my perception of their brand – and not in a good way. What Debenhams did has made me question whether it is ever worth shopping there again – I cannot be bothered with the hassle. I want to be confident that I can trust and rely on a business to help make my life as easy as possible – I cannot rely on them to do that. I hope both companies read and learn from this post. I hope that others ensure that if they do not already know what makes their customers lives difficult, they find out pretty quick – failure to do so could be fatal!
If you have two minutes, please take the time to complete my 2 question survey to find out your personal #1 brand for delivering consistently good customer experiences. I also want to know what makes the brand your #1! The research will be used for an upcoming blog post – many thanks for your time!
You can complete the survey by clicking here
Ian – I do work with Warehouse. They would be horrified at the thought of being linked with a bad customer experience. Let me know the details and let’s see what we can do to sort it out!
Thank you so much Maria – the most important thing is that both Debenhams and Warehouse learn from the experience shared!!
Ian I work for Debenhams i have enclosed the return policy at the back of your receipt that wasn’t show on your snap shot at the top, yes it may seem, a small inconvenience at times for us when we want it to be fast and our way. Surely you can see that its not always as easy, as you make it out to be Warehouse is a Shop in a Shop, hence why products purchased in specific stores that carries these shops in a shop can only be return to such stores. As i were to buy in a Warehouse on the high street in a stand alone store I couldnt just return it to Debenhams warehouse because the stock is classed differently and Stand alone stores are not part of Debenhams. Going back to reasons for not being able to return your stock to a Debenhams that didnot have a Warehouse shop is because Warehouse stock has to be returned to a warehouse shop within a Debenhams. I hope this clarified your question it is not because Debenhams provided bad customer service but that the assistant was only following the Policy on the receipt and what they are asked to do in their job.
Maria, I also think as a Warehouse staff maybe you could have clarified the reasons for a Debenhams staff in a Debenhams that does not carry a Warehouse shop why we are not able to take your stock back than to quickly say Warehouse would be horrified to be link with bad customer service I doubt whether you can call the service provided by an assistant explaining what the policy already states on the receipt Bad customer service.
So Ian I am sorry your wife did not read her receipt before trying to return her goods and as such ended up being frustrated. We do try to please all our customers and provide the best service at all times. I hope that my comment was helpful.
Subject to exceptions, Debenhams is happy to exchange or refund your purchase within 28 days of delivery, for Click & Collect orders the 28 days starts after you have received your ‘Order Ready for Collection’ email. Your refund will be credited to the original payment card, if you have used a Debenhams giftcard your refund will automatically be credited to the original gift card.
Unwanted goods must be returned in a fully resaleable condition and any tags must be intact. Extra care must be taken when trying on clothing, please ensure you are not wearing any make up, fragrance or deodorant that may leave a scent or mark. We reserve the right to refuse an exchange or refund if goods are not returned in a saleable condition or are damaged.
Please note that you may only exchange or refund concession items as long as the store you are returning to has the particular concession and you have proof of purchase.
Hi Flo – many thanks for taking the time to read the post and respond in the level of detail you have. It is important for me to stress that my post is not intended to highlight the inadequacies of Debenhams staff – to the contrary.
Poor Customer Experiences are often delivered by employees of organisations who have designed customer journeys that are ineffective. In this case, whilst it may be Debenhams ‘policy’ or ‘procedure’, neither word is sufficient in describing the experience received by the customer.
It is too easy for brands to quote ‘policy’ back at customers as a defence for doing certain things to those customers. It is more important to question WHO the policy or procedure was created for – the words ‘policy’ or ‘procedure’ are unlikely to be to the benefit of the customer.
Ultimately, until or unless Debenhams review the way they deal with this very important touchpoint in their customer journey, customers will be dissapointed when they have the misfortune to encounter it. That is likely to lead to dissatsfaction with Debenhams, which will very likely lead to that customer not returning.