Thursday, October 11, 2012

How not to satisfy your customers

I had a really lovely posting planned. Really. The bounty and beauty of autumn, complete with photos, but it will have to wait. Right now I need to rant.

I've done a lot of business via the Internet. I live in the sticks and am really particular about what I own, so do my research and go to the best sources.  I've had wonderful service from businesses like LL Bean, Sierra Trading Post and the giant Amazon.  I've been treated like royalty by small businesses, like Doug at Spruce Haven Farm/Meaford Wool (probably the only Internet seller of socks made of musk ox wool -- I told you I'm particular).

My recent experience with Sportsman's Guide (SG) has to have been one of the most needlessly frustrating I can recall. It may end my relationship with them because it really hasn't been 'made right,' the process by which you save an otherwise loyal customer ( especially one who forked over a $29 annual membership).  Though I retired from a government job, I spent 10 years in a real business, half of that in marketing.  It costs a lot to gain a new customer, so a good business can afford to do a little to save a customer with a track record of buying.  Not so much here.

If you aren't already tired of this, let me share the story. I wanted a sleeping pad for a specific purpose. It needed to be less than 23 inches wide and preferably 2 inches or more thick, but compressible and light weight. I searched far and wide and found one at SG. I ordered it in time for a trip which included an opportunity to test it before the event for which I need the darn thing.  The pad was a Red Canyon DELUXE Sleeping pad. SG also carried the next size up, the OUTFITTER, which was several inches wider and twice the weight of the deluxe.

The box arrived 3 days before my trip.  I could tell by looking that it was the larger pad.  I measured and weighed it, silly me. I then looked at the tag which confirmed my suspicion. The manufacturer had clearly marked the bubble next to OUTFITTER, but the SG label on the back stated DELUXE. A simple warehouse error. I called the company and explained the problem.  I suggested that when the replacement was sent, they have a note instructing the order-filler to confirm that the right item was being sent. They even agreed to send the item by 2-day air to an alternate address so I could keep to my original schedule and sent me a postage paid return label. So far, OK.

Two day air turned out to be 7 day air by the time it was delivered.  I could tell before I opened the box that they sent the wrong item AGAIN.  Sure enough, same item, same labeling error. I called again. They would have 'Linda' the product manager check it out at the warehouse and give me a call tomorrow.  No call. No chance to dry run the product. No satisfaction.

I called them back today. I informed the rep that I wanted to talk to a supervisor and she asked to let me give her a chance. She verified that Linda had discovered the warehouse error, that there were no DELUXE pads, all were the outfitter size and that I should return the one that was too big. I would receive a $10 off coupon for my inconvenience and the pad would be removed from the website (which has not yet happened).  Seems I was the only malcontent and the other recipients were happy to have the larger, more expensive pad at the special discount. 

On to the box.  I didn't have a 30 X 8 X 8 box, or any other large enough for the rolled pad, and the one that had been battered for an extra few days by UPS was in poor condition. Would they pay for a new box?  The rep suggested I check with grocery and liquor stores for a replacement. I went ballistic. I had already spent several hours making up for their mistake -- twice-- and she wants me to box hunt??? Helpful but insane. I ended the call.

After regaining my composure, I called back and insisted on a supervisor. I explained the situation and she was less than helpful. After some extended discussion, she reluctantly agreed to credit me the extra shipping I paid to receive the initial wrong item and suggested I just use some extra tape on the pitiful box. I understood why the rep tried to save me from a chat with the supervisor.

You can tell a lot about how a business is run by how they react to their own mistake, and whether they self-correct, listen to customers, and make it right. Sportsman's Guide flunked the test on all three counts.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the bad experience, but a big thanks for the heads up.