Sometimes customer service can be very difficult to deliver.  However, more and more I am convinced that the problems originate from failure to observe the maxim: failure to plan is planning to fail.  When these cases arise, customer service problems stick out like sore thumbs.  To spot them, you only need the superpowers of common sense.

Here’s a recent illustration of an interaction my wife had with Shutterfly, Inc.

  • Upload photos.  Save draft project.
  • Receive email with $10 promotional coupon.

So far so good.  Shutterfly “knows” my wife is interested in their product and knows that she didn’t make a purchase on her first visit, so “interacts” with her via email to entice her to make the purchase.

  • Finish project.  Place order, attempt to redeem coupon.
  • Coupon redemption fails.
  • Shutterfly customer service doesn’t know which promotion my wife is referring to and asks her to send an email (no attachments please since Customer Service can’t view attachments) with details.
  • Details exchanged.
  • Company is sorry coupon doesn’t work.
  • Company’s verbatim response:  “I request you to get back to me once your ships and you have received the shipment confirmation email. I will insert a gift certificate worth of $10 to your account for $10 off.  Gift Certificates do not expire and it can be used to purchase any Shutterfly product from your account.”

Now, using your superpowers of common sense, what Customer Service sins has Shutterfly committed?

  1. Checkout step did not accept the promotional code.
  2. Customer Service Team unaware of current sales/marketing promotions.
  3. Customer Service Team has insufficient tools to interact with customers on their terms.
  4. Service response did not yield desired result on order ($10 discount).

This experience begs two questions.  Is the company inept?  Or do they value their customers so little that they don’t bother to create a working coupon redemption transaction?  Regardless of the answer, the problems my wife encountered, along with the poor way the problem was handled leave a bad impression.  (If you are a NetPromoter proponent you will recognize me as a “detractor”.)  The pivot point is that if your company fails to use its common sense superpower, your customers will find better alternatives – faster than a speeding bullet.  In the next post we’ll propose recommended recovery steps!

Any “promoters” out there to balance the view?

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