Is your business sending mixed signals?

How could a sweater be backordered til end of February and ship the same day?

Is your business sending mixed signals? 

mixed signalsPost Christmas we had some returns to take care of.  Turns out that a catalog company that up until now, I have really liked has a silly policy of “free shipping” BUT deducts a flat rate of $6 for any returns.  Really?  Seems like a stupid policy to me and plants the seed that makes me think twice about ordering from them in the future. But I could get beyond that silly policy, but there is more.

We ship two items back – one item a return and another an exchange for a different size.  In the same day, I receive a voice mail form the company  explaining (poorly) that the exchanged item referenced by all their internal-only codes (blah blah blah) is backordered and will ship at the end of February.  No indication if I need to call and confirm that I still want the order.  Strange message and really lousy use of internal gibberish that a customer does not care about.  Fast forward, 3 hours from the voice mail message.  Email received.  The SAME exchanged item that was backordered 3 hours ago has shipped via UPS and the tracking number is provided.  HUH?  What the heck is going on and who the heck is in charge?  Mixed signals.

Carbon2Cobalt has nice, unique items.  The items are not inexpensive and as far as I know, the only option I have to purchase such items is via mail order. Their brand image has taken a hit.  They have been knocked down many pegs in my book.  First detail happened before Christmas!  I had to return a gift purchased for my nephew PRIOR to Christmas as when the item arrived it had unique top stitching that my teenage son did not like and told me his cousin would not like either!  Note to the reader – the stitching was not visible in the images online and there was no mention of this detail that was prominent on the real item. Details matter.)  Second, the sweater being exchanged would not have had to be exchanged if their website included such notes as this style runs large – suggest you order down one size.

This is not a blog to trash Carbon2Cobalt.  It is a heads up to ask yourself – are your signals clear?  Are you sending mixed messages?

Whatever your business (retail or not), I suggest the following 10 steps to protect your brand and your business from taking the significant hit that Carbon2Cobalt has taken based on my experiences over the past month. This story does NOT just relate to retailers.  Do you Mr./Mrs. CEO know what it is like to be your own customer or client?  Is it painful to receive inaccurate and conflicting information?  Do you consistently come across to your customers as though you have no clue what is happening and who is in charge?

Recommended action items to see how clear your signals are:

1. Review your return policies

2.Return your phone scripts.

3. Listen to your on-hold messages.

4. Review and audit product and service descriptions. (e.g., sweater runs large; note top stitching around zipper in bright contrasting color)

5. Review patterns of returned products or customer feedback indicating product/service did not meet expectations.

6. Lose the jargon.  Get rid of codes and acronyms in your customer communications that mean nothing to the customer! Don’t talk about stock numbers – in this case describe the sweater! It is that simple.

7. Document and prioritize your customer moments of truth.

8. Measure and manage to these moments of truth.

9. Train new employees on your brand; your tone; your core values.

10. Repeat items above and never assume they are working correctly.

I am not saying these things are easy.  However, they are basic.  Get the basics right before you are focusing too much time and energy on the ‘nice to have’ items.  Get down to basics.

Carbon2Cobalt you have some work to do to earn back a loyal customer. I am now skeptical and honestly curious what will be coming in the mail.  Any bets on if the correct item in the correct size will ship anytime soon?

 

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