Saturday, October 18, 2014

To the head of customer experience, Marks & Spencer

There's work to be done on Customer Experience here...
Marks & Spencer were once known as the no quibble returns people. Got a problem, you could take it back. In the land of physical stores that was just fine.
But the game changed. And Marks & Spencer didn't.
They left their customer experience back in the 20th century while the rest of us (their customers included) came to expect more. They came to expect customer-led experiences - those that seek to resolve a customer's issue, that understand the value of that customer, that know who that customer is at each touch point.
I hadn't had a good run with M&S. Three successive fails across different parts of their business (poor flowers, dodgy suit, terrible food) had led me to making a make or break call with their executive office. It was very difficult to raise a complaint in the first place because I tried to do it on an iPad. Their model is still PC first. oh dear.
But I don't want to bang on about that. When I told them this was their last chance to retain me (after multiple calls and channel switches) they sent me a £50 gift voucher.
It worked.
I went back to shopping in my nearest store for food on a Saturday.
And then I made the mistake of ordering some clothes online.
The first package came. On time. Trouble was a pair of jeans among the items had the security tag still attached - you know, the sort that covers your world in dye if you try to remove it with the wrong equipment.
So I fired off a complaint (via a pc, lesson learned) and pointed out that the reason I shopped online is that I don't have time to visit the nearest clothes store (30 miles from my home) so can you please try to resolve this without me having to attend? Maybe you could send someone round when doing deliveries with a security tag remover, I reasoned?
The computer said no. They offered me (seriously) a £5 gift token. I told them this is not about money, this is about serving customer need. By not bothering to check that they had removed the security tag, no doubt their deliveries were a tiny bit more efficient. The cost of that 'improvement' had been passed on to me. The cost of fixing their failing (my time and travel) was entirely to be borne by the customer (sans £5 gift voucher).
I'm lucky enough to be paid a tad more than £5 an hour (which is the minimum my resolving the issue would cost) so I didn't think this a good trade off.
Scarily, I had also ordered a new suit from M&S (yes I know...) and said in my last comms to M&S customer service that I was seriously worried about how the suit may turn up now...
You know what I'm going to say next, right? The suit arrived the next day, complete with... you've guessed it... security tag on the jacket!
I started the inevitable and painful complaint process again... They were sorry. This time a £10 gift voucher.

It really isn't about the money. I just want the product I have paid for in a fit-for-purpose-state without the need for me to expend any additional time and money of my own in resolving what is properly the company's issue to fix, not mine!

Isn't that how we all feel now? Isn't that what we all expect?
A series of further exchanges have followed with offers of next day delivery but a continued insistence that I must send the items back before they will send replacements. Well (I have pointed out) I'm sorry but I need the suit for a wedding next Saturday. If I keep hold of it I can (as a last resort) drive to my nearest store and get them to remove the tag). If I send it back I have absolutely zero evidence that M&S is capable of sending me the item in time - and crucially - without a bloody security tag attached. In fact, all my personal experience points to the fact that at least one item per package will have a security tag attached.
The bottom line here is that M&S is using cash to pay off annoyed customers rather than investing in building a customer-centric and device agnostic approach to customer experience.
Now - let me go seek out the head of customer experience and point them this way...

UPDATE October 23, 2014: Tracked down the relevant person on Linkedin who responded swiftly to tell me they'd be picking this up at work.

Given how short I was on time now, I drove 30 miles to my nearest clothing store on Sunday to get the tags removed. This I felt compelled to do despite it being the day of my daughter's birthday party. Parents will understand how little time I had to spare - but thanks to M&S fails I had to spend 90 minutes of the little I had fixing their screw up.
The people in the store were kind and listened. They couldn't understand how the items came to be tagged. Indeed in the case of the jeans, they don't tag them in store, let alone in distribution warehouses.
They wanted to offer me something (yes, vouchers) but I declined because I have now raised this with someone at HQ...
However, I have still not heard anything further from M&S, three business days on.

I will keep you all posted.

BTW - a general rule I think customer experience should apply - Resolution at the point of transaction should always be offered. If it was delivered to my home, you should resolve the issue at my home.

UPDATE October 24, 2014. A letter arrives from M&S Head of Customer Services. It is detailed and lengthy. It accepts there were failings that should not have happened and which were inexcusable. It promises better inter-departmental communications and to consider enabling the online team to send out replacements in advance of receiving unfit for purpose products back. The letter thanks me for bringing all this to their attention.

All in all a very reasonable response. If only it had actually included a resolution of my issue...

I'm left feeling like I've done M&S a number of favours - from resolving the issue myself to giving them big clues about how to improve their offering and reduce their fail rate.

I am left assuming that karma will provide my reward...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Antifragile: my contribution to a networkshop

Antifragility consultant and long term supporter of Open Business Sinar Si Alhir was asked to host a workshop at the Center for Technology Innovation at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
Rather than go it alone, he turned to his network to create a more antifragile response.
I was among those he chose to reach out to and you can see the output of the whole here: (Demystifying Antifragility).
The concept, if you aren't aware, comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Antifragile - Things That Gain From Disorder (which I thoroughly recommend).

Here's the full text of what I shared with the networkshop:

For me antifragility is about networks (and as is my interest) primarily about the relationships in those networks.

Networked organisations are antifragile. The Mob, Al Queda, these are difficult to destroy because the idea resides not in a boss at the top but in everyone everywhere.

Facebook is fragile. It's fixed networks can be severely damaged by the removal of prime nodes - or superconnectors. Twitter is antifragile - made of nodes where the ability to organise and re-organise around interest in adhoc ways means the loss of one node has less impact on the whole.

The internet is antifragile. Indeed if the web historians are to be believed it emerged as a military application designed to outlive more formally structured communications channels.

Hierarchical companies are fragile. Take out Steve Jobs and...

Familes outlive the oldest companies and will continue to do so; they are networks of connections with both close and weak ties creating a fluidity and adaptability that is essential to be antifragile. They are tied by something which connects them all to each other, not each node to a leader.

The key test of the antifragile is that it has stood the test of time; the weather is antifragile, evolution is antifragile (hence life in aggregate rather than in particular).

Designing for antifragility requires us to think about the survival and continued flourishing of the whole, of the web, rather than of the individual, or the node.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?