Ever try to return to a brick and mortar store something you bought from their online store?
Oh sure they tell you it's no problem, just waltz in and waltz out a few minutes later, problem solved. All right, those of you who've tried it can stop laughing now.
Spare a thought for industry observer Michael Krigsman, who subjected himself
to this procedure recently. The difference is that being a customer service writer, you get to share your pain with a broad readership.
Krigsman attributed his travails, in the main, to "incorrect customer transaction data and information sharing limitations between online and local stores," in his case at clothing retailer the Gap.
"Here is the company's simple return policy, as stated on its site
: 'You can return or exchange items by mail or at the appropriate brand's store (U.S. locations only) within 45 days of your order date'," he writes. Sounds easy, dunnit?
"The retail store could not locate my purchase in the transaction history to which it has access. According to the Gap employees, stores have only limited access to online records," Krigsman wrote, adding that for good measure, "the local store then called the company's online services organization, which also had no record of my purchase."
In this case, however, the Gap deserves kudos for having the sense to hire managers with more sense than the company's online services: "The store manager finally bypassed the online order system to process the return independently from my specific account."
And he's not an isolated case. "According to anonymous Gap employees with whom I spoke, the company often faces difficulty resolving problems that arise when customers order online and seek service in a local store."
And we're not just picking on the Gap here. Krigsman's blogged about system problems at retailers such as Levi Strauss
, and Overstock.com
So what's the takeaway? If your IT is hitting on all points, that's a competitive advantage, Krigsman thinks: "The systems that collect, manage, and distribute this data to customers and internal employees are sufficiently complex to make IT success a strategic and competitive advantage for organizations that do it well. Conversely, by creating hassle for customers, IT failure can erode confidence and reduce buyers' willingness to engage and shop."
David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David's articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Juliana Kenny