Saturday, 17 December 2011

Has Brand Loyalty Killed Customer Service?

Yesterday proved a very frustrating day as along with many other people I was left without my weekly food order being delivered by Sainsburys.  I had had issues on Thursday with amending my order and then received a call from Sainsbury's ten minutes before the end of my delivery time slot to say they would be unable to deliver my order.  I was told this was due to an error with their payments systems, that they would be unable to process my card payment.  However I was very welcome to make a twenty five mile round trip to collect my order, which they could still pick and pack for me and pay by my card instore.  As any of my Twitter followers know I was absolutely livid yesterday as I already had a very busy day of work and more school concerts and did not have time to go and do a grocery shop. 

I swiftly emailed Sainsbury's to ask several questions after this,

  • Why did they not inform me sooner that they were unable to deliver my order?  They had obviously known they would not be able to deliver as they had not picked my order
  • If they could accept payments instore why could they not accept payments for online orders?
  • Would my order booked for Friday 23rd still be delivered?
  • Did they not value their customers enough to provide decent customer service by informing us all sooner?
This last question led to me to ponder, has brand loyalty killed customer service?  I have had several problems with Sainsbury's in the past couple of months and I know several other people have had issues with other big retail brands this month.  Complaceancy has become rife within the big retail brands as they assume we will continue to shop with them if they simply appologise and maybe offer us a five or ten pound voucher to ease the upset.  Yet the tide is turning and we, the customer, expect more, even from big brands.  We no longer wish to just be seen as a profit margin, a finger typing in a pin number at the till.  For too long we have let poor customer service continue but now we are more aware of good customer service from independent businesses we expect it from big businesses too. 

Independent businesses are having their best year yet because they care about their customers.  The reason, their customers are their livelihood not just a faceless pin number.  Sainsbury's simply do not care if I choose to shop at Tesco instead, my annual spend on groceries is insignificant on it's own.  Yet as this has not only affected me, but hundreds of their customers, multiply my annual spend by this and suddenly the dent in the company profits may seem more significant.  Perhaps they could have prevented this profit loss with better damage limitation, by simply offering excellent customer service.  Yet complacency took over and the assumption that brand loyalty would outweigh the need for customer service may well have put a large dent in Sainsbury's profit margin.

What do you think, should big retail brands reasses their customer service policies? Do these giants need to take notice of the little people?  I know many independent businesses could teach these brands how to provide excellent customer service.  Do you think complacency has destroyed values within the retail industry?

Now I shall step off my soapbox and enjoy my weekend.  I hope you all have a fab weekend too.

Zoe
x

4 comments:

Jo McGowan said...

I am absolutely astounded how complacent big companies can be to the point where if one actually does offer good customer service I am shocked. We all make mistakesand things can go wrong for any of us but if you keep the customer informed and try and offer a solution that doesn't inconvenience them too much then most customers understand

Forest Flower said...

I do not have 'brand loyalty' particularly when it comes to supermarkets. I shop with whoever can deliver when I want it, at the price I can afford that week as I have found everyone of them has pretty shoddy customer service. If I could afford not to shop at supermarkets, believe me I would not. So they have me due to convenience of home delivery (I live miles from nearest supermarket and have no car)and price point (we have a Co-op but their prices are ridiculous!). If one of the big 4 that deliver to my area could improve their service then maybe they would have my loyalty and I would stick with just one of them!
That said my last order was with sainsburys and was the first time I have recieved EVERYTHING on my order with no substitutes/unavailable items which surprised the driver almost as much as it surprised me!
I too have my Christmas food shop booked for the 23rd with Sainsburys - I very much hope I receive it!!!

Zoe Grant said...

I agree Joanne, I am always shicked when I actually receive good customer service, which is wrong.

Let's hope Forest Flower that we get our orders! I too would not use a supermarket but price is important when you are budget restricted and with my five chidlren I am very much budget restricted!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Zoe, it is very interesting I am just writing a paper on retail consumers and guess what? Many consumers are currently frustrated with levels of service from large retailers. I work with many large companies and many are struggling to maintain service levels with huge reductions in staff. I really feel for the people at the sharp end in these situations.

As a consumer, I have also experienced some more major issues with customer service (like in your story). I think we were used to the odd blip, now the events are becoming more frequent and larger, and there is no real plan for responding when there is a service failure.

The other interesting thing to consider is that with a move of many "transactions" to the web instead of in store, there is often a much higher expectation of service from retailers than there was before; both on the web and in store. Bad service incidents stand out much more! And we are able to talk about them more openly and broadly....

I think the type of service issue you have experienced is the area that needs some focused attention - the basics of customer service - rather than the frills that companies sometimes prefer to spend their money on! It isnt' just the bigger companies either, it is frustrating to me to see so many start ups ONLY wanting to spend on outbound communications.. and experiencing the issues down the track.

A great opportunity for those passionate about customer service, and a great opportunity for the consumer to take the power back and decide where to put their money :) Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts!!

All the best
Liz

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