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CX Blog: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly #11

Discounter drops the ball on order fulfillment - surprises are not always good!

I recently ordered some home goods from a discount retailer. I generally trust the brand. I also had to buy the items there to fit with some other furnishings I already had. I had even ordered from this retailer online before (once I had picked up items in the store after ordering them online and another time, I had the items delivered to my home).

On each occasion, I got exactly what I ordered. I paid what I expected. All fees were clearly disclosed. Everything arrived when I expected it to arrive and when I was promised. The ordering and checkout processes were easy and efficient. It was convenient to me.

On this occasion, I expected the same, good experience. I easily found the various items I needed online. The spacing, ordering and payment processes went as planned. I chose to pick up the items in the store. This meant getting them a little faster. And I was able to avoid the delivery fees.

This is where the experience took a sharp left turn. I encountered two surprises. Neither one was a nice surprise.

First, the retailer added a $5 service fee to my order. I noticed that the service fee varied widely, depending on the location of the store. My choice of store resulted in one of the lowest fees listed. I guess that was good, but this was new. They never charged that fee before. I was surprised.

Unfortunately, they did not explain what the fee was for. They just tacked it on to my checkout amount, as a separate line item. I appreciated the disclosure, but it lacked detail. Was this the cost needed to have someone assemble my order from the store? Why was that fee double and even triple at other stores? Did they have to have some of the items shipped in? Was the cost of labour more there? It felt like a money grab to me. It amounted to an extra 2.5% on my bill. I was annoyed, but that didn't stop me from placing my order. I rationalized that a discounter had to cover costs with additional fees. And the charges to have it delivered to my home were even higher, so it felt like a good deal... well, not so much. It still felt a money grab at my expense.

The second surprise was more infuriating. After confirming my order and paying with a credit card, the online tool took me to a summary page. On that page, I was able to quickly check the items and prices once more. The total was the same as what appeared on the confirmation page. But there was some fine print that caught my eye. It told me that I had a three hour window to pick up the items the next day. And it suggested I respect the pickup window afforded me.

I can assure you that I had no plans to be at that store the next day, and not in that time window either. I had to work! They never offered me a choice. If I wanted to change it, I needed to cancel the order. But they were going to keep the 2.5% fee, regardless.

I get that they did not want me running to the store to pickup my items five minutes after placing my order, but this was over the top. The fulfilment of my order was designed to be convenient to the retailer. It had nothing to do with me at all. They didn't even care what I wanted or needed, what was convenient to me, the paying customer.

I expect better from this reputable international retailer. They just earned a new detractor. And I blab a lot about this stuff.

Key takeaways:

  • It's good to give the customer choices to get their wares, to permit a value for time tradeoff.
  • It's bad to provide no detail on the rationale for service fees, especially when they are new.
  • It's ugly to tell a customer to be somewhere at a specific date and time, without negotiating those terms first, our at least asking for their preference.

Written by Andreas Noe

Andreas H. Noe, MBA, BComm Marketing, is a founding partner of Phase 5 and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing research and consulting. Andreas leads Phase 5’s Customer Experience and Market Insights teams.