Waitrose just committed the worst customer gaff

Last week we ordered two cases of wine from Waitrose with the offer of a 5% discount.

They arrived but it was the wrong wine so a call was made to Waitrose over the weekend. That’s when things began to unravel. First off the person on the phone said the discount didn’t apply as we had ordered it from a different part of Waitrose – very confusing. Then there was further confusion when the person said they couldn’t help as we had called Waitrose.com whereas the wine had come from Waitrose Direct. We had however ordered it from the Waitrose.com site.

What emerged was a real own goal on the part of Waitrose. If you go on to Waitrose.com, click on wine, it takes to you to a different site which is Waitrose Direct even though there isn’t any indication that shift has taken place. The design and graphics of both sites are identical and of course as a customer we just believe we are dealing with one Waitrose.

After further calls, and increasing anger from she who must be obeyed, we were eventually told Waitrose.com and Waitrose Direct are different companies! What? Apparently Waitrose is Waitrose whereas Waitrose Direct is in fact John Lewis. Based on all of the advertising for both brands they obviously recognise their customer base is reasonably intelligent and quite likely to query mistakes. But to add further anger to this confusing, time wasting process, it was inconceivable that an offer made by Waitrose would not be honoured due to their own internal structure.

In the end it was a vist to a Waitrose store, all of the above explained. The person dealing with the discussion did not believe two different companies existed behind the Waitrose brand first of all but after a few phone calls she was horrified to have this fact confirmed; and that was an employee of Waitrose. A bunch of flowers were produced by magic and then an email turned up telling us we were about to receive some vouchers as an apology.

This experience demonstrates the fragility of a brand reputation because the devil is in the detail. How can brands such as Waitrose and John Lewis, currently swelling their coffers with the proceeds of the better off, get something like this so wrong? The experience was a very bad customer service moment, the person in the first call basically kept telling us we were in the wrong. As we all know reputation of brands can be ruined or improved by these experiences. Try calling HMRC for an awful customer experience!

Top of the Pops from my point of view at the moment on the customer experience perspective are Vodafone and Amazon. Vodafone folk at their call centre are pleasant, chatty and very helpful – they always solve any issue I might have. Amazon react in a nano-second towards any query.

I have given the advice so often to others based on ‘don’t make the other person wrong’ as a starting point. This advice should be drilled in to people at call centres given we all deal direct with almost all of the people we buy things from and/or transact with in some way. Our response is directly linked to that one call, it’s either good or bad, there isn’t any middle ground. One bad experience could easily mean shifting our business elsewhere.

In Peter Jones last week I was waiting on their technical services section with a minor problem and in front of me was an older gentleman who had bought an expensive flat screen TV. He bought it with an offer of a free tablet with the purchase. His TV was delivered but no tablet so he called Samsung. They told him he didn’t qualify because his TV was a 2011 model not a 2012 model. He wasn’t a happy man. Not only did he not get his free tablet he had also been sold an old model. He had all of his receipts and the pamphlet covering the offer. There was a young chap dealing with him who kept telling the customer he had the wrong serial number, i.e. the customer was wrong but clearly the customer was smart, intelligent and had already called Samsung who were firm in their position.

As the customer said several times “I always shop here because I trust you and you claim never to be undersold” yet here he was having been mis-sold. The stupid reaction of the sales guy was wrong; I was gagging to offer advice as the solution was simple. They should have honoured the original offer, collected his TV and replaced it with a 2012 model. Simple and the customer would remain a loyal fan.

Having seen the latest John Lewis TV spot numerous times I’m getting a little cynical as the “never knowingly undersold” claim is tarnished based just on two experiences plus the notion of some things never changing doesn’t hold water.

The Waitrose saga, obviously all part of the John Lewis group, has left a sour taste in the mouth because I think we have been the victim of slight of hand due to Waitrose.com not being the same as Waitrose Direct. What are they thinking about, seems crazy to me?

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888

4 Responses to Waitrose just committed the worst customer gaff

  1. Mrs Jane Stringer says:

    I have just experienced exceedingly poor customer service from Waitrose. Briefly, I wanted to order a case of Champagne, offered on their wine website, at half price. With my credit card at the ready, to spend almost £200, I was told by the ‘customer service (?) Advisor’, that ‘he couldn’t see it on his computer’. He asked me to verify the name of the Champagne and asked me if their website showed it still in stock. It did. He said he would have to call me back within 10-15 minutes. He never called back. Even if they didn’t have it, surely, as a matter of common courtesey, he could have telephoned me. I was really disappointed and I have good reason to be. In 2011, my husband was diagnosed with lung and bowel cancer. Devastating news. After 13 months of operations, chemotherapy and very slow recovery, not to mention the angst, he’s on the mend. Our philosophy now is that if we want something, then we treat ourselves and hang the expense! It was his birthday at the end of January and it would have been nice to celebrate with the Champagne.
    The day after I tried to order it, I wrote a letter of complaint. All properly typed and addressed to HO, with a first class stamp. I heard nothing. Eventually, I emailed. They claimed not to have received my letter. They asked me to email a copy which I did, together with a copy call history showing my original phone call. I heard nothing. Eventually, today, one month later, I have a reply and £20 worth of vouchers. No mention is made as to whether the Champagne was available or not, just apologies and, in effect, saying they will try to do better next time! Pathetic and I don’t want their vouchers, I just wanted the Champagne. I suppose no-one in authority sees these letters of complaints. I have the feeling that they are dealt with by people who really couldn’t give two hoots whether the customer is satisfied or not! I’m most certainly not impressed at all.

    • Paul Simons says:

      It was good to read your husband has recovered from the illness.
      The upside of the internet is it allows customer and supplier to be connected but the downside is human flaws are exposed.
      I agree your experience is rubbish, it shouldn’t happen. Taking a leaf out of my partners book is get on the phone, insist on speaking to a manager, and be like a dog with a bone. Complaining is the right thing to do but we as a nation are wimps when it comes to a full on complaint.
      Best of luck with your champagne.

  2. Zara says:

    I think telling people they’re wrong must be a trend amongst waitrose customer services staff. Having been back and forth with them for several months due to their evident disinterest in the whole thing, I have finally received a response that effectively tells me I had no reason to complain in the first place.

    I had a very unfortunate experience with a security guard in their store over two days. Firstly I was chased out of the shop to be accused of stealing an item I had not been anywhere near. Once it became evident that I had of course not stolen said item the security guard denied that this was what he was accusing me of and left abruptly with no apology.

    The next day I had the misfortune of encountering him again in the doorway where, laughing all the way, he just about managecd to get out an apology. I politely told him I had complained about him via email. A few moments later he approached me in an aisle and aggressively asked if I would like his name to aid me in my complaint. Of Course I said yes and was led to a disused til where he wrote ‘Paul’ on a receipt and gave it to me. He then started shouting at me about how he had only been doing his job and I could say what I liked.

    I left the shop feeling understandably quite upset and have not been back since because as a 5″2 young female I feel quite intimidated to be in the presence of a large, muscly, security guard who thinks it’s appropriate to shout at me.

    After many back and forth emails from Waitrose I have been told that Paul ‘handled it professionally’, I am most offended by the implication that I am something that requires ‘handling’. They have also conjured up some imaginary witnesses to verify this, although the first incident took place in the street some way from the shop, and they won’t tell me who they are due to them ‘not being able to reveal details of internal investigations’. I have however been invited into the shop to discuss this with the very manager who thinks that shouting at people and losing your temper is professional behaviour, which for obvious reasons is something I would prefer to avoid.

    I am so unspeakably cross about the whole thing, I have contacted Citizens Advice who inform me there are no laws vetting customer service. If anyone has any advice of how to take this further that would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Patricia Brydon says:

    Won’t spend too long with the saga but hey you got your wine!!!
    I just had an on line grocery order which was missing 6 bottles of wine !!!and the majority of my order of groceries, and the driver just said well maybe someone else got it !!!! So after spendong ages ordering NO WINE NO groceries and no offer od redelivery and a paltry £20 voucher offered .
    Cross and will now order elsewhere.

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