‘Boutique’ Online Shopping – Customer Service Matters!

In my local and online shopping, I prefer to give my hard earned cash to a smaller outfit that offers a good (or in some cases superior) product and many times a much better shopping experience. However, of late, I have had two consumer experiences that lead me to believe that small online retailers don’t understand the importance of customer service (or customer relations).

First up in Inventory Magazine (and their related shop). With only two issues in circulation, Inventory is a fantastic magazine: interesting articles, well presented and sustainably produced. No quarrels there.

I decided to splash out and buy one of their bespoke store brand shirts albeit at a bit of a premium price. A little over a week later the shirt arrives. It looks as if it has been unceremoniously stuffed into a folded up shopping bag and a shipping label applied to the outside. A cursory inspection of the shirt shows that it has several obvious defects in the material and craftsmanship (slubs in the fabric, loose buttons, untrimmed threads). Basically, reminds me of the sort of thing you would see on the rack at as a ‘second’ at TJ Maxx. Clearly the item hadn’t been inspected at all before plunked into the bag and sent of to me, the customer. I am justifiably more than a little disappointed in the item I received so I sent off an email to Inventory. Several days go by with no response. So I send another. Still no response. I direct message them on Twitter (where they are fairly active so I know someone is on the other end of the line). Again nothing. At this point, my thought is ‘what the hell?’ – they have had every opportunity to a) respond b) make the situation right. Instead they have chosen to do nothing. Buyer beware when purchasing from Inventory Magazine’s online shop.

The second example is comical in an ironic (and similar) sort of way. Monocle is another fantastic monthly magazine that has ventured into online sales of a small number of curated items from music to books to rather dearly priced clothing ($400USD espadrilles anyone?). I already subscribe to the magazine so I have an online account with them. My attempt to use that account to purchase several music CDs from them was a very rough ride. After selecting the items and placing them in my shopping basket I attempted to check out. I selected my existing account from a list. But I can move beyond the screen because it keeps telling me I need to input a city name. Reselect info, visually verify there is, in fact, a city listed. Check. Still can’t proceed. Fire off an email to the Monocle sales team. The response: ‘try again later’. What?! Presumably they have invested in self healing technology for their site. So I try again a week later. Same error. Another email. Then another. Then another. Finally get a response to, wait for it, ‘try again later’. When I inquire if the issue has been identified and fixed (it has not) I get the curious response of ‘just send us your order and payment info in an email(!) an we’ll try to process your order. My payment info in an email? Are you mad? At this point nearly two months have gone by and they have not fixed their site. Now I need to renew my subscription. Same issue with that. I am able to work around it by manually re-keying all of my address info into the system. I was so frustrated that I emailed Tyler Brule (Monocle’s head) directly about my poor experience with the Monocle order process. You guessed it, no response at all.

The truly ironic part of this is how much Monocle the magazine bangs on issue after issue about who is doing customer service ‘right’ around the world and authoritatively proclaiming to those who aren’t ‘doing it right’ how they should improve. But apparently when it comes to actually providing customer service themselves, well, that is optional, suboptimal and unapologetic. Thanks for making me work so hard to be a customer, Monocle.

Fortunately, there are a few sites that understand customer service. One shining example is Corazzo, a Portland, Oregon-based provider of scooter/motorcycle riding apparel. From my first order, they have provided both stellar products and service. Questions and issues are dealt with promptly and personally. Subsequent orders are always accompanied by a hand written note of thanks (and many times a little something extra that shows they appreciate the return business). Absolutely fantastic. If they were a local company, I would stop by on a regular basis to congratulate them on their fine service and products and encourage them to continue in the same vein.

I can only hope that Inventory spend a little time with the Corazzo folks and figure out how to elevate their game. I wish Inventory success – if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t engage with them to try to improve. At this point in my experiece, they have a long way to go.

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