Skip to the end: Customer Service
Its as easy as that! In the days of the brick and mortar only stores, a lot of effort was put into waiting on customers, packaging things well, offering special services- doing the window displays and generally doing the work of branding your store. Then we discovered that ecommerce was the new thing. Everybody tried it- most failed and some tried again. Where we thought there would be cost savings- it turned out that an ecommerce store does not save you anything -it just costs more in different and unexpected places.
Now with the emergence of Houzz, Target, Wayfair, Walmart and the like, it is almost impossible to get found on the Google search engine if you are-sigh- just a store.
Now, I am a fan of Wayfair I admit. They sell and deliver in record time. I cannot abide shopping on Amazon unless its for a movie- I just feel like I am shopping in the bargain basement. I cannot imagine buying my home furniture, placemats or lighting from Walmart or Target- just can’t do it. And don’t even get me started on Houzz- the best idea that went wrong, wrong, wrong. So where does that leave the customer? and the stores that want those customers.
So you guessed it, you cannot do an ecommerce site on the cheap. Customers want beautiful- they want to be transported to a place of trust and style. They want to sit on the sofa with a glass of wine and look at 40 sofas, and then read about 4 in detail. They want to know the fabric choices, the fill and construction- they want to know when they are going to get it, how and for FREE. They want to order when they want, dont charge them until it ships and stay in touch with them throughout the process. If you cannot do this or most- you should get out of the ecommerce business and I am not kidding. I also maintain that if you can do it- there is a place for you and a bright future.
It is expensive and time consuming to do a good website. It is every bit as difficult as running a store. It is running a store. Only the walls are different. In our stores, we run into issues everyday where we can see how we could have done better. A missed email, unreturned call-all of these are as bad as letting a customer stand at the counter waiting to pay as you chat on the phone. And most difficult, you must feel a kinship with your customer- even though you never see their face. They are not anonymous. You are not anonymous.
Here is an example:
We had a nice couple order two sofas from us. They come from Four Hands, a company I adore and think are way in front of the style curve.
When the Order came in, we sent a thank you email (which are sent out automatically) and then another about 10 days later asking if they would accept a different color of seat as the color they wanted would not be available. That email did not hit the mark- this was a major error. Because this couple now does not know that getting the sofas would not be immediate but instead would take an additional 4 months. Meanwhile, our Purchase Order manager is trying to get an assurance that in deed we can get them. While waiting to hear back from Four Hands, they put in a call to the other stores that claimed on Houzz and elsewhere that they had stock. We would be willing to pay retail if we had a guarantee of color and availability. There may be no profit, but we would have a happy customer, right? So we started calling….incredibly only 2 people got back to us- apologetically- the sofas are now discontinued.
Now I understand why stores have inventory listed, even when they dont have it in house. We are forced to do that as well because many on line store templates only allow you to take orders for the stock you have listed but that is not appropriate for a site like Houzz. There is no reason for them to list anything where stock is not- on hand. Their vendor contracts require that you have stock on hand.
Today, we again called each Vendor/Store listed on Google claiming to sell the sofa (meanwhile we had special ordered it so we knew we could deliver). Every store that so apologetically told us 2 months ago that they could not deliver was still listed on Houzz. Come On! So we started another call a thon…this is what we saw…
Here is our Moby Dick
Laurian Sofa Linen, Natural $3,265 Intrustic Home Decor no answer message is for company using a different name
Laurian Sofa Linen Natural $3,265 Rustic Edge no answer but wait, is that the name on the message machine from the first one? And they list themselves as the maker NOT!
Addison Sofa, Linen Natural $4,032 Sovo Furniture listed as being made by Ba Ba Ba Ba Barstools. NOT! They answered- 7 weeks + delivery.
Lorenzo Sofa, Linen Natural $3,350 BRIGHT MODERN and made by Bright Modern- Wait- is there a pattern here? NICE man answers phone. 7 weeks + delivery
Neried Sofa Linen Natural $3,456 Augustine Furniture and made by Augustine Furniture- uhhh, I dont think so! Same NICE man answers phone.
Dorset Sofa, Linen Natural $2,960 The Khazana Home OK! answered the phone, good price and properly say the manufacturer is Four Hands. Sadly, this is the Four Hands store- so they know its been discontinued… Darn.
Just for good measure: Our listing: Dorset Sofa (correct name) $2895 with correct manufacturer- 10% off for the first order and Free shipping. AND we did get the sofas ordered and confirmed. And close behind was the store owned by Four Hands- at least its a real store and a good price.
This is what customers go through every day. Its is completely unacceptable that HOUZZ has this one (discontinued) sofa listed 6 times for a price that varies by over 25%. All listed as in stock- ships by Aug 1- Come on!. From what I can see, these are all just websites somehow linked to the nice man who answers the phone-sometimes. But who does not care that what he is selling is ungettable. Why are all these listings under different product names and incorrect makers. What is with the 1000 swing in price?
Houzz is a mess. But then so is Google, each of these “stores” and their host (Houzz) also junk up Google with fake names and availability leaving the customer confused, disheartened and if they see what I do- pissed off.
Even I am a little miffed. We are the only people who TRIED to get it sooner and did get it done for them and had the lowest price, the correct name and accurate listing. But I have to really work to keep up with the advertising budget of these other guys and the big box stores…but still- I scored the sale so all is well.
Then SPLAT! We fell on our face by getting tunnel vision. We left the customer in the dark. All that work and all the good news in the world wont get you past that mistake.
Where did we do well: Customer Service
Where did we fail: Customer Service.
What do my customers need: honesty, quality, communication = Customer Service.
Hopefully, I will do better. If I do, I dare say we can beat the GIANTS and find a sustainable place in ecommerce.
your friend- DGD