Tag Archives: customer experience

Grrr… Michelle is a bit rattled!

I’ve had some really crappy customer service recently. And it’s got me a bit rattled, so I thought I’d put fingers to keyboard, and vent a little.

“Choose Express Post and your T-shirts will be with you in time for the Hottest 100!” Well I did, and yet they weren’t… They arrived on the Tuesday after the Sunday countdown and are now sitting in a redundant heap on the kitchen table. $12.95 doesn’t sound much, but it’s the principle. Two emails of complaint to customer service later and I’m nowhere near getting even a decent apology, let alone my money back. It’s always someone else’s fault, isn’t it? Or, better still, there’s the age-old caveat of “during periods of unprecedented demand”… But how was this unprecedented? These T-shirts were specifically designed for the most infamous event in the Triple J calendar AND, get this, they were on sale to raise money for Lifeline. Ipso facto, they were meant to zooooom off the shelves!

Then there’s the coffee machine I bought my husband before Christmas. He has one of those December birthdays which is tricky – do you go large for the birthday, or save it for a couple of weeks? I went early in this case. But the honeymoon of that “we now have our own coffee machine, look how much money we’re saving” feeling was shattered a few weeks after Christmas when it started leaking water out of the bottom like a sieve. First, the (reputable) café owners didn’t believe me and tried it themselves to check there was actually an issue. Erm, thanks for the vote of confidence. Then they sent it off to the manufacturers to be fixed, leaving me with no apology, and no way of making coffee in the meantime. The vortex that is the ‘service centre’ means no one could tell me when our machine would be back in my possession. And the little information I did glean was through me making all the effort – visiting the café, plus calling up for an update. When it did return, a couple of weeks later (a couple of weeks!!), it was all smiles from the café dude, free coffee beans, and an escorted product placed back in my car.* He was lovely and a far cry from the sheepish, somewhat sullen, confrontation-avoiding man I dealt with at the time of crisis.

Finally, for a Throwback Thursday experience which has never left me, there is the introduction of the (somewhat annoying) host at the front of your classic retail store whose role is to essentially trap you en route to where you want to go. Seemingly friendly, but often very far from interested in allowing you through. In this particular store, I wanted to buy what a retailer would refer to as ‘an accessory’ rather than a large ticket item. They live at the back of the store, far from where I was accosted. So, I was eventually deemed not worthy enough to be restrained any longer, and allowed to free roam. I wasn’t impressed with the selection, and I had questions to clarify. Looking round, no one was free – I was in the area where the hard-core contracts were being signed, and everyone was head down with their respective customers. I therefore left, went across the road to a competitor and spent triple the amount of money I intended to thanks to some real ‘fluffing’ and metaphorical ‘stroking’. They elevated my mere accessory to a real ‘must have’ and I left the store with two of them, a real pep in my step, and quite the unnoticeable dent in my wallet.

Some observations on the above:

  • No brand is beyond the need to care and serve
  • The customer should always be given the benefit of the doubt
  • Employees need to be equipped to have tough conversations
  • Don’t let bad will build and fester – keep customers in the loop
  • ‘Service’ shouldn’t ever be about getting rid of people/putting them off/moving on to the next person**
  • Never judge a customer’s spending power by the size of their wishlist – the big ticket item lurks in all of us

They say that an unhappy customer tells 9-15 people about their bad experience – think I’ve just done a little more than that – and it takes 12 good experiences to make up for one bad one.*** So, time for a name and shame? It’s 24Hundred, the T-shirt provider; Coffee Brothers in Mona Vale; and good old Telstra, who lost out to Apple!

Michelle is always open to having a discussion about your brand, your customers, and your employees, and overcoming pitfalls. She promises not to talk about herself in the third person again, unless absolutely necessary.

* In his enthusiasm to close my boot, and get me the hell outta there, he forced his grip against the electric closing feature. And now, on occasion, it doesn’t close properly… 😩

** Centrelink and Medicare, take note!

*** Stats courtesy of: https://reputationrefinery.com/96-of-unhappy-customers-wont-complain-to-you-but-will-tell-15-friends-infographic


From this week, the tone of the MamaTray blog becomes a tad more serious and the post, a good degree longer. So maybe grab a coffee before you embark on this one…

I’m taking at look at my experience of certain brands, as a normal customer on the street – not your average customer, given I work in branding, but a paying customer nevertheless.


First up, is Coles. For my non–Aussie readers, Coles is a retail giant (supermarket, plus the usual extensions into areas like car insurance, credit cards and the such like) and Number 2 in this market, with 8.8 million customers. Its biggest rival, Woolworths (Woolies to the locals) boasts 9.5 million customers and has recently been heralded as the most valuable brand in Australia. Grocery prices are eye–wateringly high in this market, compared to Europe for example, so the main focus of the supermarket brands is to talk about value, with secondary messages about ‘freshness’ and ‘quality’.

I’m a regular Coles customer. It was the supermarket located near my first residence in Sydney, ‘fresh off the boat’ from the U.K. and I’ve stayed with it, by and large, for my main weekly splurge. I tend to opt for online shopping, to help improve my overall quality of life, but I also visit the stores from time to time. I have no complaints about the quality of the groceries, they’re always very fresh and well presented, and the delivery guys who come into my home with the shopping have good banter. (Yes, I always put them through their paces, to fully ‘road test’ the customer experience.)

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As a retailer obsessed with offering the very best value to its customers, Coles has gone down the path of creating ‘catchy’ (or desperately annoying, depending on your tastes) ad campaigns, complete with slogans galore and 80s jingles, sung by ageing U.K. rockers. (So proud.) The ‘Down Down’ campaign is the most notable of these – it claims that prices on pantry staples and essential items will stay ‘Down Down’ at a consistently low price. Presumably therefore helping you manage your household finances better. Bingo, bango.*

In recent weeks, the campaign has taken on a whole new level. The line is now: ‘Deeper Down Down’. Items which were already ‘Down Down’ are now being reduced even further, some up to 34% lower than the original! However, when I add in the accompanying visual device, for some context, as depicted below – a red, enlarged hand, with pointing forefinger, I’m convinced that at least a few of you will find your minds drifting to the same land of innuendo that I did. (Do any of you remember the lyrics to ‘Deep’ by East 17, btw?)

‘Deeper Down Down’. Really? Is this the kind of language you want/need to see from a leading brand? Or a retail brand which offers products that line your pantry (ahem) and comms that constantly pervade your consciousness? I wasn’t convinced this new direction was a goer, so I tweeted Coles about it. To their credit, they replied. That’s all I wanted. A brand that responds to my concerns and one that acts like a human being:

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As I mentioned, I’m most likely to do my Coles shopping online. What I’ve started to notice, is that it seems to be very hard to deliver a consistent, seamless customer experience through this channel, despite recent upgrades to the web portal and ‘back room’ technology.

My typical experience goes a little something like this…

1. I carefully plug in my (extensive) weekly shop, from the comfort of my sofa/bed, on the iPad, using the absolute God–send of a tool called the ‘Usuals’ list, that keeps a record of all of the products I have ever purchased.

2. When I checkout, I inevitably get told (by an annoying pop up) that some of the products I have chosen are not stocked at my local store. This is confusing.
• Firstly, why do I, as the online customer, need to know that Coles is getting my items from a particular store? Surely, it is one big store. Like one big pie for those who love David Brentisms.
• Secondly, the local store named isn’t actually so local. There are at least 4 nearer stores that I would personally have chosen to get my stuff from. It’s probably a bigger, more convenient store for Coles to use.
• Finally, I have to remove said items, versus take their suggested alternatives – hoisin sauce, for example, is not what I would describe as a viable alternative to French vinaigrette dressing…

3. I finally checkout. The site now has the nifty technology to store my card details, so there’s no more scrabbling around to find the card in question and run the risk of it all ‘timing out’.

4. On the day of delivery, I always receive an email – an email that I dread – informing me that at least 3 or 4 items are out of stock. (Out of stock? You’re a retail giant and things like yoghurts and loaves of sliced bread are not what I would consider to be specialist items…)

5. When the delivery actually comes, however, I often receive some of the items that it claimed were out of stock. And sometimes, I even get the items that it told me were not available at my ‘local store’ that needed removing from my online trolley. Wow, that’s a minefield of missed fine detail. Coles must lose money when its paperwork (and emails) claim items are missing and don’t charge me for them. And, what’s more, I potentially over–order items, as I think they’re not available. That doesn’t represent ‘value’ for either of us.
• Case in point: the man of our household likes a weekly chicken schnitzel. It’s not a big ask. But every time I order them online, they’re out of stock. So, this time, I ordered 2 different kinds of chicken schnitzel, in order to guarantee that at least one pack arrived. On my last delivery, both arrived, despite one being flagged up as ‘out of stock’. Except one pack didn’t contain chicken schnitzels: it was pieces of raw chicken breast that could be schnitzelled (I presume that is a real word?) if I had some eggs, flour and breadcrumbs to hand. The webpage depicted what can only be described as a chicken schnitzel – or a chicken schnitzelled, if I may – not raw chicken breasts. Either way, I only paid for 1 of the 2 packs, so technically no loss from my perspective. Perhaps, even a serendipity.


So, you see my concern. Is the technology behind the online shopping platform not able to keep pace with the shopping lists we order, or is it an issue with back office/operations behind the selection of our items instore by the assigned ‘personal shopper’? Or, perhaps, a bit of both? Either way, the online shopping experience is currently not as seamless as it promises on the newly designed website, and it could potentially damage the overall customer experience of shopping at Coles.

The above ‘bumps’ eventually made me branch out to the enemy and try Woolies online, to compare and contrast. For starters, it didn’t seem as popular, as I could get a delivery slot the very next day. (The Coles one gets booked up really quickly, especially on Wednesdays, the free delivery day. Those slots are like gold dust!) Perhaps Woolies simply have more ‘men on the ground’ but who knows, I’m trying to think like a customer here. Secondly, their delivery charges reduce the more you spend, which made me feel excellent. (The Coles charges go on time of day, so presumably around factors that make it cheaper for them to deliver.)

The process went like this:

1. Aside from the inevitable ‘having to start again’ and choosing all my items from scratch (from a printed–out list of my Coles ‘Usuals’) the Woolies online process was pretty standard. No local store shenanigans, but a different selection of brands to choose from which sent this brand freak into complete turmoil, as you can imagine.

2. There were items I removed from my trolley before checkout, which turned up on the day in the delivery, and I was charged for them, despite not wanting them.
• (In addition, I rashly ordered 7 packs of Roma tomatoes, thinking I was actually picking 7 Roma tomatoes, but luckily they were out of stock, so we didn’t have to eat tomatoes with everything for the next few months. Phew.)

3. The delivery arrived, half an hour early. Bonus. The delivery man said approximately 4 words to me, despite my attempts at a bit of social interaction, and he was gone.

4. I promise I’m not making this up, but guess what was totally missing from the order? The bloody chicken schnitzels!! No out of stock warning, no apology. I got straight onto the customer service line, to discuss, and the whole issue was dealt with in a very slick, professional manner (he rang the driver to check they weren’t still smuggled in the back of his van; they weren’t; he issued a refund which cleared the very next day; there was also a very well branded, email to confirm).
• On the call, I also mentioned the items I had removed from my online trolley, turning up in the delivery, and he agreed that was strange. The next day, I was refunded for them, despite him not telling me this would happen, which I guess would fall into the ‘surprise and delight’ brand behaviour box.

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How did I feel after the deed was done and dusted? Hmmm, essentially, a little underwhelmed by my foray into the adulterous waters of a rival service provider. At best, I think I’d potentially play them off against each other, especially when I can’t get a Coles delivery slot until about 5 days after I want one. But, I won’t fully commit to Woolies. I missed the banter, if I’m honest. Getting a bit of chat with my delivery – on the traffic, the weather, how popular raspberries are at the moment, the fancy new handheld devices that are ruining their lives, whatever. So, above and beyond an efficient and seamless experience, I’m after a bit of good, old fashioned, human interaction. I shop online for ease, but that doesn’t mean I want a soulless brand experience.

What I would say to Coles, is that I represent one (particularly demanding) customer segment and there are many others out there, evaluating their own choices of retailer based upon the more tangible, functional experience they receive. And, currently, Woolies just about has the edge on the online shopping front. A little bit like they just about have the edge in the market, per se. It’s not a big edge by any stretch, and it’s begging to be surpassed.

Until next time… ☺

* A phrase used within this post, purely designed for the satisfaction of Mr David Sutherland – the originator of said phrase – and others who are aware of his unique way of phrasing things.