A superb customer experience takes a turn for the worse.
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I am always happy to commend great customer service, but some companies simply aren't able to listen. Instead of building Web sites as either a dumping ground for frequently asked questions or for mere e-commerce transactions, organizations must use their sites to improve two-way communication with customers. The following example illustrates why.
I recently visited the Estee Lauder counter at Bloomingdale's one evening, dreading the chore of returning a $20 eyeliner pencil. I had expected a snappish attitude, but instead was greeted by a warm, friendly sales associate. Erika seemed genuinely interested in my opinion of the product, asking me in a concerned, pleasant tone to tell her exactly what I did not like about the eyeliner. When I listed my reasons, she nodded, and said, "Thank you for telling me. It is important to know what you dislike about a product." She made me feel as if my opinion really mattered, and that she was going to pass the word on to people who can help improve the product.
Erika told me that I was free to return the product without purchasing another. She was so polite, professional, and attentive that I felt cared for and special, and I then happily purchased a new item that cost more than the one I had returned.
Thrilled with Erika's service, I was eager to report to Bloomingdale's an incident of great customer care. After jumping through several hoops, which included an unhelpful call to Bloomingdale's customer service department and a failed attempt at reaching Erika's counter manager directly, I finally found a customer comment page on Bloomingdale's Web site. I filled out a long, tedious form. Not surprisingly, I went from feeling special to feeling like a statistic whose opinion did not matter.
Though I was annoyed, I did write a glowing report of Erika's wonderful service, even including her associate ID number. I signed off, satisfied that I had gotten word to management of this devoted associate's superior customer service.
Not so fast. A couple of days later I received an email indicating that while Bloomingdale's appreciated the time I took to express my opinion (little did Bloomingdale's know) I needed to clarify some information, and to click on the "link below" to do so. Expecting to quickly edit my error (I had clicked on the wrong store location), to my chagrin I realized that I would have to fill out the entire form over again. Fatigued and refusing to bother, I signed out of my email, and called the toll-free customer service number again, foolishly anticipating a quick resolution to this mess.
The customer service associate patiently listened to my tale. I asked her how I could simply edit the form without rewriting the entire opus over again. After checking with her supervisor, she reported back to me that her department was equipped to handle customer inquiries on product orders and deliveries, not my specific need (which was to commend superb service). She passed on her supervisor's advice to call the store directly. Again.
Incidentally, I had also visited the Estee Lauder counter at Macy's the same evening that I visited the one at Bloomingdale's. At Macy's I had also enjoyed a wonderful shopping experience, and when I thanked the associate, Jessica, for her help, she pointed to the Web site and her name, printed at the bottom of the receipt. She told me that if I was really pleased, she would appreciate it if I indicated so on the Web site. I did so happily, and the entire episode took me a mere five minutes. I received an email reply promptly, assuring me that Jessica's store manager would be notified of my comments.
I still haven't had a chance to notify Bloomingdale's of my superb customer experience, so--here's hoping that someone from Bloomingdale's reads CRM--kudos to you, Erika of the Estee Lauder counter at Bloomingdale's at Roosevelt Field Shopping Center, in Garden City, New York...I hope this reaches the right people.
Galia Ozari is a freelance writer based in Fort Lee, NJ.
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