Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Office shoes: A how (not) to guide for customer service and social media

I recently received such bad customer service from well known high-street brand Office Shoes that it actually made me really angry. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have caught a snippet of my anger and confusion but I felt that this merited a blog post as Office not only failed to provide the goods that I had ordered, the customer service I received was abysmal and they proved that they don't even know the basics of social media. Sadly, I'm not the only one that this has happened to, their Facebook page is littered with negative comments, that is until the page admin does the unthinkable and actually deletes them...more on that later. 

It all started off so well when I logged onto the Office website to idly peruse their shoes. Nothing caught my eye in store so I thought I'd give the website a whirl. I don't know whether I found them or they found me, either way I was suddenly faced with some utterly stunning Jeffrey Campbell wedges that just had to be mine. It was love at first sight; I'm pretty sure that the world went slow mo' while Usher/Donell Jones/Joe played in my head! I bought them then and there, checked the order confirmation email and thought me and the Jeffrey Campbells would live happily ever after. Hmm yeah, pity Office don't make the shoe buying process as simple as see, click, buy, enjoy. 

The shoes in question - Jeffrey Campbell Xanadu
I ordered my shoes last Tuesday and the email stated that delivery is between 2-5 working days. Being kind of keen impatient to receive my fierce new shoes, I called up customer service on Thursday afternoon to get an ETA. I was shocked to discover that the order hadn't even been processed yet. The lady in customer service did a check for stock and told me that there were none in stock in the warehouse and that they will fulfil my order from stock they have in store...which would take up to 7 working days! Not only had it taken them two working days to figure out that there was no stock left in the warehouse, it only came to light when I rang to check on the order. I was also told that although it would take up to 7 working days to source the shoes, it would take an additional 2-5 working days for delivery, so I was looking at potentially 12 working days or two and a half weeks. This is completely at odds with their Ts & Cs which state that UK orders could take up to 7 working days from order confirmation to delivery. 
Taken from the Ts & Cs page
Feeling slightly disgruntled and frustrated by the experience, I went to Facebook, found the Office page and wrote about what happened. I went back to the page a couple of days later and was horrified to see that the page admin deleted my post, as well as a couple of other negative wall posts. Not only that, they've blocked me from writing on their wall again! As someone who has worked in social media for two years, I was stunned. You can't censor social media, that's not what it's about. Yes, if someone is abusive or spams then by all means delete it. Social media is about a two-way dialogue between the customer and the company. You can't control what your customers say about the brand so there will be some negative comments that's just the nature of the beast but what you can control is how you deal with it. Or er..don't deal with it in the case of Office. 

The first lesson of social media is listening to conversation around your brand and the second is to interact with your customers. Deleting comments and making customers feel like they are completely insignificant is not in the lesson plan. I used to help look after social media for one of the UK's biggest retailers and I would never, ever delete a comment. In fact, our customer service team were trained to resolve issues super quickly. You need to show that you respect your customers.

I bet that this wallpost will be gone come 10am..
Like me, a couple of other people noticed that their post had been deleted so they posted to ask why their post had been deleted - these also got deleted pretty promptly. I'm shocked that the person who looks after their social media applied for the role and actually got employed. They've shown that they lack even the basic concepts of social media and have zero respect for their customers. This isn't limited to just Facebook though, I've tweeted them countless times and had zero response. Not having a Twitter account is better than just using it as another standard PR/markering channel. 

In the meantime, I had emailed on Friday and Monday to see whether they had sourced the shoes from any stores yet. Like my Facebook wall comment, my emails were ignored. I rang up again today, a whole week after my order had been placed and the customer service lady I spoke to hit the final nail in the 'failures by Office' coffin. After a lot of kerfuffling, she told me that they couldn't source the shoes from store after all and my order had been cancelled...well er, no one told me that!

Out of frustration, I handed the phone to my colleague who looks after customer service at my current workplace. When she got off the phone, she was even more frustrated than I was. The lady she spoke to kept contradicting herself, one minute they had searched their stores, the next minute they were unable to source from store, the next minute they were only able to source from four stores (there are over 40 in London alone) and she didn't even know how many stores they had in the UK in total!! She did offer me a 10% discount as well as free P&P. Honestly, that's not nearly enough to make up for all the time wasted and horrendous experience. Oh and funnily enough, straight after my colleague hung up, they emailed to confirm the order had been cancelled. Um it's sort of too late I knew that already. 

On reflection, I'm not actually sure what the biggest problem is here: the frankly crazy long-winded web ordering process, the shoddy customer service and lack of communication or being deleted and blocked by their social media people. All I know is that I'm never going to buy anything from their website ever again, it's just not worth the hassle. I doubt I'll even bother going into their stores. However, if you want to play a fun game*, post something negative on their Facebook page and see how long it takes before it's taken down. Extra points for getting blocked too.  

* Disclaimer - I am not actively encouraging people to spam the Office Facebook page. 
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