What's the Real Cost of Bad Customer eXperience?
Good customer experience. I hear about it all the time. The more I learn about it, the more my CX radar is enhanced and the less tolerant I am of what appears to be 20th century customer service tactics, backed by the lame excuse from a real person that they certainly wish they could help but their “technology” won’t let them.
You mean your computer is in charge?
My latest bad customer experience happened at Victoria’s Secret online. That’s where I shop for bras because I know they fit and I have no tolerance for going to the mall. Hence, finding another brand that I can eventually order with a click and get delivered to my home is something I’ll leave for the day after my lobotomy.
My buying routine is simple. About every 6 months, I go online and order my usual 34 AA. Unlike the guy who needs a size small prophylactic but buys a medium, I’m not over-inflating my needs. It’s hard to find my size in a bra that doesn’t look like it was made for a Disney princess in training, which is why I buy online and have it delivered in a plain brown box. When I opt for the variety that adds a whole cup size, I also feel content that someone could theoretically look at the box and think it’s something sexy instead of a fake rack.
In November when I filled my Victoria’s Secret cart with bras, I was given the option to get another 10% off my order if I applied for a VS credit card.
Another 10%? Was it worth the hassle? I was in a rare patient shopping mood.
I applied, was accepted, earned 10% off, paid it off the next month and turned my back on the pink VS envelopes that continued to fill my mailbox, thinking I had earned this waste of paper by applying for a credit card in the first place.
But what was really my bad was those little pink VS envelopes actually held a monthly statement with three line items: late fee, interest charge, new balance. Unbeknownst to me, my very first payment had arrived late so their “system” automatically calculated the additional charges, printed my statement and sent it to me to address. Monthly.
Which I didn’t. Until recently when my husband opened one and said, “Did you know you owe Victoria’s Secret 86 dollars?”
Because it was an innocent mistake and I’d obviously made the effort to pay them off very close to the due date, I called, armed with this information and the belief that every business cherishes their long-term customers.
I explained the situation to service representative no. 1. She claimed her hands were tied, something she explained in a long, bland, recited or read-from-her-screen monologue that I can only guess was designed to torture me until I’d give in and pay up.
Well played. But I had another card.
I offered to pay one month’s late fee and the corresponding interest charge, just not three months, and reminded her of my long-term relationship with Victoria’s Secret and how, with the myriad of online purchasing options, her response could jeopardize my future intent to purchase.
She didn’t care. Unbelievably, she commenced again on the same boring, pointless monologue like no one would guess it was a diversionary tactic. I delicately tried to stop her but she’d aced customer non-service school and talked louder. I decided to start chanting. “Get me a supervisor. Get me a supervisor. Get me a supervisor…,” I repeated. A friend told me that reciting the names of vegetables works too. Finally she relented. I was transferred to rep no. 2.
Here’s where a customer feels special. When the second rep picked up, there was no intro from no. 1. I didn’t know if she had shared anything with him. When I spoke, I didn’t know if I was that bitch from PA or someone with a fresh start. I started with a quick explanation.
No. 2 claimed to have the ability (via his “technology”) to only reduce my balance by the late fee and finance charge for one month, not the two I was requesting. He didn’t care that I was a longtime customer and, more importantly, that I promised to never buy another item from Victoria’s Secret as long as I lived. He emphasized “One month’s credit.”
I reiterated, “I will never buy another item from Victoria’s Secret again.”
I wonder if the people at the top care that because of a simple policy over a squabble of around $45, they were about to lose a customer who, over the course of her life, would spend thousands. I was awestruck. None the less, his claim was that his “technology” wouldn’t allow him to reduce it further.
I made another decision. “Give me to your supervisor.” If there was one. I had no idea where the buck stopped. Perhaps I’d be passed on to the almighty Oz.
A real person picked up. She was obviously higher on the pay scale. I wish I could have seen if she was behind a curtain. She explained that indeed the man before her only had the ability via his “technology” to reduce the three months of late fees by one, which he had. But she had the magic power to also reduce it by one more month, making the grand total exactly what I had requested: two! She must have possessed the elder wand.
In any case, with the fee down to an acceptable level, she took one more step and made another offer: If I paid the balance at that moment via a bank account, she’d waive the $7 fee for this type of payment and we’d call it even.
Sold! But did it have to be so painful?
Here’s what bothers me. Neither Thing One nor Thing Two offered to transfer me to someone who might be able to help. No one presented another option. Had I hung up the phone on no. 1, Victoria’s Secret would have lost the subsequent order I placed and every order after that.
And don’t forget that what I owed them was simply funny money—fees calculated by “technology.” The dollar amount did not represent a loss of merchandize or shipping fees. And because I took the initiative to push their “policy,” they profited from a subsequent sale.
How many shoppers have been stooped by policy? How many merchandizers don’t care if they are?
On the next rainy day, I’ll go to a store, find another brand of bra and replace Victoria’s Secret. And when the opportunity arises, I’ll share my bad customer experience story with other consumers who depend on reviews to make their buying decisions.
Which leads to the real question: What’s the total cost of bad customer experience?
Do they care?