The Importance of Being Earnest (or Quality Customer Service)

More and more often these days, major retailers are forgetting the importance of good customer service. And at the same time, smaller retailers like online only or local businesses are making it their biggest priority. In a world where you can buy groceries and a new outfit in the same place, or have them both delivered to your front door without having to leave the house, I think the latter group may doing things right.

Lately I am finding myself drawn to the stores and websites that I know will do me right, should I need to return or exchange or have a problem. It’s just a safer bet all around, and especially when you are someone who doesn’t have an unlimited spending account. I am someone who can’t deal with having things around that I’m not using or don’t like, so I always check out the return policy before purchasing, and if I am unsatisfied I always return.

After Christmas this year I heard from many friends and family about stores making the process of returning increasingly difficult for the consumer. This inspired me to highlight some of my favorite retailers with impeccable customer service, places where I’ve always had great experiences, not felt taken advantage of, and feel I can confidently spend my money (should I choose to).

The Good

1. Nordstrom – I’ve primarily shopped at Nordstrom online, and each time has been better than the last. They don’t force you to create a profile, and hold your credit card information and email address in order for you to buy something. They have free shipping and free returns all the time, without any other hooks, and with return labels included in the package. They will take back anything. They have a live online chat feature, where you can immediately and easily talk to a knowledgeable customer service representative about anything relating to your order or items on the site. And in my experience, all of these ideals hold up for shopping in store as well. It’s always been a win-win for me there.

2. Target – I am a huge fan of Target, even though it’s a touchy subject right now after their recent security breach. But despite that, I still have to say I’ve never had problems with their customer service. They take back pretty much everything, and they can look up the purchase through your credit card so you don’t always need the receipt on hand.  Plus, they can give you a credit even without a receipt, by scanning your ID. Anyone I’ve dealt with in store has always been pleasant and willing to help, and the same can be said for anything related to my Target Redcard. And also with the Redcard, shipping and returns are free, or can be mailed and return to a store.

3. Victoria’s Secret – VS has always boosted quality customer service, and rightfully so. As a loyal VS shopper, and again primarily online, I’ve contacted their customer service several times in order to use in store only coupons or find out about product availability. They’ve honored coupons that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to use, issued credit, and accepted returns after the date they were supposed to. Dealing with their customer service in store or online has always been a  breeze.

4. Modcloth – Modcloth isn’t a place where everyone can shop, but if you can it’s worth it. This is an example of a retailer that is online only, and works hard to make sure their customer service is one of their major assets. They always have free returns and exchanges, on some beautiful one of a kind items. They have detailed information about about their items, with in-depth information on the fits and quality. They also have a live chat feature similar to Nordstroms, with very helpful customer service reps.

5. L.L. Bean – A family company based out of Maine, this is a place that has always stressed their care for their customers. Though it might not be somewhere you need to shop all the time, as they have a lot of cold weather and outdoor wear, its a great place for those and many more. They offer free shipping on everything all the time, and though they no longer have completely free returns policy, they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products with no limits.

UPDATE:

I can’t believe I forgot this in my original post 6. Piperlime –  but during the holidays I had multiple packages from Piperlime get lost or incorrectly delivered. Now, this may not have necessarily been their fault, it was likely an issue with Fedex during the holiday chaos. But each issue I had the Piperlime customer service was extremely helpful, in one case they shipped out the same order the next day, in another case they immediately refunded my purchase.

The Not So Good

1. Amazon – Amazon likes to boast their quality customer service and in some cases (if you’re a prime member spending $80 a year for membership) it’s true. However, when it comes to returns, refunds, or buying from anyone in the Marketplace that is NOT specifically “Amazon.com”, it’s a very different story. As a “Marketplace,” Amazon hosts items from many, many retailers and providers. Some of which are coming from various countries in Asia, and sometimes otherwise illegitimate locations. This might not seem like a huge problem, until you realize that that is where you have to return the item, or until you realize you’re waiting 22 days for a shipment, or until you realize the quality of the item is not what you assumed it was because you didn’t know that it wasn’t the actual item you were looking for, just a good look alike. On these purchases, Amazon makes it clear they are not held accountable. Each retailer within the Marketplace is allowed to have their own policies for returns, and many times just display vague information about their company. And all of this, you might not find out until you’ve already given your money over. For these reasons, for one of the biggest retailers on the internet (if not the biggest), Amazon is a lot less transparent about how they work, than they should be.

In addition, Amazon used to offer free shipping and returns on certain items when spending over $25 or if you’re a Prime member. Now, the minimum for free shipping on certain items is $35, and they no longer offer free returns (I learned this the hard way, when I was refunded $7 less than I had paid for an item). And even when you are specifically purchasing from Amazon.com as the retailer, they no longer offer free returns on all items like they did before (with Prime or for spending over $25).

Finally, if you haven’t picked this up already, Amazon does not monitor much of the activity that goes on on its pages. The reviews for an Amazon listed item could make or break the product’s sales, but in many cases the reviews are fabricated or coming from multiple bogus accounts from the seller/company itself. There is no legitimacy for where or who the reviews are coming from (similar to the advertised quality of the product itself), and whether or not you should trust any of it.

2. H&M – terrible quality clothing, and terrible return policies. Basically, won’t refund anything or issue any credits if you don’t have an exact receipt, and they have no other way of looking up a purchase or the item in general. They also don’t issue gift receipts at all, which make things even more difficult if you were given a holiday gift you didn’t like.

I will add to this list as I recall more of each. Please feel free to leave your own favorite retailers with good customer service (or otherwise) in comments.

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