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Once bitten, twice shy

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Buying online has been a real saviour during the pandemic. It has provided us with some great examples of good customer experience. Online buying has enabled us to acquire hard to get hold of items at a moment’s notice, delivered to our door and often at a very acceptable price.

But…, there is always a but. Some of us have become blasé with ordering online and this has exposed us to suppliers who have been able to exploit our easy come, easy go, “click and buy” behaviour.

Take for example a group of friends who wanted to buy Julie a birthday present. They know she likes interesting food so they decided to buy her a hamper. Looking online they found the perfect gift. The foodie items were in a wooden box nicely protected by heaps of straw; just like a hamper ought to be. When it arrived Julie opened the parcel with great anticipation. The top layer was made up of biscuits, a small fruit cake, teabags, and a jar of jam. Excitedly she dug into the bran tub to find the bottom layer. There wasn’t one; just a load of polystyrene chips. The half a dozen bits and pieces could be grabbed off supermarket shelves for less than a tenner. It didn’t stop there. Julie appreciated the gesture from her friends and felt obliged to send them a thank you note. "Wow! Thanks so much for the wonderful gift I can’t wait to get my teeth into the fabulous goodies" – or something like that. With this testimonial her friends were reassured they had made a great purchase and could recycle the idea for someone else's birthday.

Now let's take a look at one of Paul's online experiences. He loves buying online and must be one of Amazon's best customers. Casper, his grandson received a carpentry set for Christmas. Casper asked his grandpa to help him make something. Naturally Paul turned to Amazon as he does for nearly everything he buys online. He typed “wood planks” into Amazon’s search box and scrolled down to find something that looked just right for making a wooden box. As an Amazon Prime customer Paul loves the simplicity of buying with just one click, and he placed his order. He congratulated himself that the search for materials had been solved.

The next day his purchase arrived – in an envelope; a small one! It didn’t contain wooden planks, instead there were 10 thin sticks. Lollipop sticks would have been bigger.

In embarrassment Paul went back online and could see from the reviews on Amazon he wasn't the first person to be hoodwinked by the photograph of the wooden planks, presumably taken to make them look a lot bigger than they actually are. Paul couldn’t blame anyone other than himself for placing the order too quickly. If he had looked carefully (very carefully) he would have seen the dimensions of “the planks”.

These experiences leave a nasty taste. Paul felt stupid and conned, Julie felt annoyed and disappointed. If a company wants to build a loyal customer base and to stay in the market for the long haul, it should bear such stories in mind. Yes, customers have become "click happy" and some may not pay as much attention to their purchases as they should, but that won’t stop them feeling aggrieved if they think they have been duped.


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