Customer service – how much does it matter ?

Since coming back from the summer holidays, where shopping wasn’t high on my agenda, I dived straight into online retail, but came back for air with mixed emotions. The question that I keep on pondering is how much customer service impacts our perception of the brand or retailer and when do you reach a boiling point and choose to simply walk away?

In the last couple of weeks I needed to restock on some supplements, fancied adding a new bag to my wardrobe and wanted to experiment with a new cleanser. I also wanted to get to know a fashion brand better and ordered a catalogue.

Cefinn is a fashion brand created by Samantha Cameron, wife of former PM David, mother of three and a woman who helped breath new life into Smythson. Popular with the fashion crowd and practical women who want to look stylish, but not overdone or too trendy, the brand recently announced via Instagram that their new A/W 2018 catalogue was hot off the press. I ordered one via Cefinn’s website and within two working days it landed on my mat. Elegant. Effortless. Everyday. Fast on its feet, attentive to customers, existing and new.

Organic Burst was one of the first supplement brands that really made an impression on my in the last decade of wellbeing evolution. Having been launched in London, it disrupted the way we viewed supplements, but just as it has build up a loyal following among customers and retailers, Katya and Dimitri, OB’s founders took the products off the retailers shelves and re-located to the US, leaving many, including myself, somewhat bewildered by such an unpredictable move. Having said that, Organic Burst still make their supplements and ships them around the world. It has a loyal following, supports its suppliers and workers, raising awareness of the working conditions and being a conscious, ethical and responsible brand. My recent order of ‘old’ favourites, Maca and Baobab, as well as Wheatgrass, have arrived within three days of my placing the order. Pleasing to the eye, beneficial to the body, quick on its feet, with regular updates on dispatch and estimated arrival.

DeMellier London is a brand founded by a beautiful, practical and creative woman, Mireia Llusia-Lindh, who successfully combines motherhood with work and remains charming and inquisitive along the way, treating her customers with the same charm and discretion, as she does her growing celebrity and royalty cleintelle. Having recently rebranded (original brand name was Milli Millu), DeMellier London recently launched Autumn 2018 edition of their in-house customer magazine. After exchanging opinions with Mireia, I ordered their new miniature bag The Siena (the brand uses inspiring cities from around the world as the names for their bags & mini leather accessories). With a chic gold chain and in a seasonal shade of purple, this bag arrived super quickly, lovingly and carefully packaged in a protective cotton bag, and even though I tend to favour large bags, this mini assistant now doesn’t seem to be far from my side.

By the same token I recently had super quick delivery from across the pond, from Beauty Heroes, following the issue that I experienced with my subscription box with the Royal Mail and my bookish Boxwalla. Each took less than a week. Interestingly and tellingly, it is often the smaller brands and companies that tend to provided efficient, attentive and speedy service, even though their budget and staff capabilities are limited.

Cult Beauty is a well-known beauty retailer, which regularly gets mentioned in the press and on social media. Recently there have been tentative mentions that founders are looking to sell the business – whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but if that happened, it wouldn’t be surprising, considering their growth and size. However, having been a CB customer from early on, nowadays I rarely place the orders. I do sometimes succumb to my ‘shopping’ impulses, when they are the only UK retailer to stock a brand, which was a case recently. I placed an order and it was dispatched two days later. The quoted delivery time is normally 3-7 work days. Other parcels arrived, but no the one from Cult Beauty. I e-mailed, I tweeted. I got a DM and exchanged e-mails. More time passed. No parcel. Again I chased. CB phone wasn’t manned, instead it had an answerphone on. Suffice to say that the parcel didn’t arrive within the time stated and neither did the replies from the customer service team within the 24-48hrs they quote. I also realised that this has been more or less the same pattern of service I have received on most of my Cult Beauty orders in the last year. But what made this particular shopping experience even worse, is that when my order arrived, it looked like this:

My writing of this post was driven by my own internal dialogue about customer care and loyalty and how important it is to customers, particularly when they have short attention spans, busy schedules and desire for instant gratification. Is it too much to expect a reply when the parcel hasn’t arrived on time? Or an update, if there is a delay in dispatch? Do we want to shop with retailers, who let us down again & again or do we take this as an opportunity to slow down, breath and practise being more patient? Do we raise a fuss or do we stay silent? Do we continue to support retailers which are driven by their own profit targets & agenda because they stock something that others don’t, rather than the desire to please the customer and provide him or her with courteous service and a feel-good experience, while achieving their business plan? All those questions floated around my head before and during writing of this post. Question is, what do YOU think and how do YOU differentiate retailers you choose to shop with regularly? Is customer service important or is it secondary, as long as receive what you paid for? What makes you reach a boiling points & walk away from the retailer for good? Please share what you think and what matters to YOU when it comes to the customer service you receive or want from online and high street retailers alike.

4 thoughts on “Customer service – how much does it matter ?

  1. I had exactly the same problem with cult beauty ! They ignore emails and messages and never pick up the phone . After 48 hrs I send a public tweet on twitter and they respond in 20 minutes ! They said they have an excess of emails at the moment but on seeing my tweet they fire into action . The missing product from alpha h was very expensive and if it was not for Twitter I would probably have got no further ! Companies like alpha h need to be aware of this as it also ruins their reputation as well . It’s is so sad that so many companies will get away with his and people lose money . As my good friend Tracy Alpine mentioned alpha h is in Marks and Spencer’s ! I have been put off ordering from cult beauty competitors as well for risk of same experience .

    1. Sadly it’s become a pattern of behaviour for Cult Beauty and I think that’s the reason why the issue ended up at the forefront of my mind. Loyalty is becoming a dinosaur, yet big companies were once small and if they don’t value the custom of long-term shoppers, how do they treat new ones? Or do they not care about customers at all, as long as they are big and their ‘celebrity’ beauty retail status continues to draw crowds of paying customers. And I agree with you Christina, brands that work with retailers need to know of persistent issues – whether they choose to listen or not is another story, but we do judge people on their actions, not just words. I believe in using the power of our voices for good and trying to change things for the better. Ultimately if retailers or brands don’t listen to their customers, in the end they lose out, as customers go elsewhere.

  2. Galina, I love how earnest, authentic and sensible your posts are. Your post echoes my sentiments on customer service. In our digital era, where human to human interaction seems to gradually decrease, customer service seems like to be taking a back seat in certain businesses. Without naming any anyone, I had an unpleasant customer service experience with a highly established vegan bag/shoe company. I was astounded by the lack of professionalism, even debutant businesses are savvier. You would never imagine this from a globally successful brand. Funny enough, I found out that my unfortunate experience was one of many after discussing with other clients. Yet, their popularity is undeniably strong(er) and they do make overall lovely products. I belong to those that highly value customer service, you can sell me a bad/defective product but if your customer service owns up to it and repairs the mistake, I won’t hold a grudge. Mistakes are human. However, when disrespect and offhandedness take place, regardless of how much I love the product, those attitudes will deter me from supporting a company again. Buying is a political act, so I prefer to support brands that have a strong ethic and cherish their customers.

    1. dear Liz, first of all, my heartfelt ‘thank you’ for your kind words of praise for my writing and for using your own eloquent voice and writing for good.
      I think i know the brand you are talking about. It seems many brands and retailers still don’t understand the importance and value of customer care for their long-term business and I hope consumers will become more confident in using their voices and wallets and supporting those brands that value their custom.
      Growth changes many brands and not always for the better, that’s why I think consumer awareness can benefit both sides. If a brand cares and takes constructive criticism on board, then ultimately it is a plus. If they chose to ignore the paying customer, while resorting to the power of press and influencers to sing their praises, consumers need to think, if its worth supporting such brands, when they stand to waste time and come under increased stress. Positive experiences matter, while negative are there to teach lessons-if one chooses to rise to the challenge on the path of self improvement.

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