I am generally a fan of Coldwater Creek. They focus on their customers, they provide great customer service, and they use a variety of techniques, including mystery shopping, to make sure they stay on top of their customer experience. I have personally had some fantastic customer experiences shopping there, as well as two very different retail experiences doing volunteer mystery shopping for Coldwater Creek (yes, I will post on those in the near future). Today, I want to share a rant about Coldwater Creek’s online experience as well as share a few suggestions from which all online retailers can learn.
As Kevin Hillstrom notes in his post, Coldwater Creek has made a successful transition from catalog to retail/online. They are good at using their email lists to send out relevant promotions to their customers. Towards the end of each month, I get a flurry of emails from Coldwater Creek about items in their online Outlet store. Last week, as I was perusing my morning email, the deals looked especially good, so I clicked through from the email to their outlet site. There were 17 pages of items to go through. In the first few pages, I did find a number of items that were screamin’ deals — a velvet dress with a sparkly brooch, a silk tank top, and a stretchy t-shirt. I put those items in my cart and clicked “Keep Shopping”.
Unfortunately, most of the items I clicked on took me to a page that said, “Sorry, this item is no longer available.” OK, so the East Coast shoppers had a head start (I am in California), but this isn’t very customer-friendly.
Website tip #1: Don’t show me an item and then make me click-through to find out it is no longer available. If an item isn’t available, make sure it is removed from the web page. Better: Let me see all the items that are (truly) available, in my size, and all on one long page if I want (rather than 17 separate pages of 25 items each).
To continue the story, I moved through the shopping pages quickly and found one more item I liked (a silvery belt) and put it in my cart. This brought up my empty cart! It did have a note in it which stated that items which had now sold out had been removed from my cart (which was all of my items). What?! Those were my items! Now, I don’t know how shopping cart software works, but if I had been shopping in my local Coldwater Creek, I would not expect someone to come up to me, take my items from my arms, and tell me someone else was checking out before me who wanted these exact same items. From looking at the forums at SlickDeals.net, an online shopping deal site, I am not the only one frustrated by this. Some customer posts on the forum expressed a distrust of Coldwater Creek’s ability to follow through on anything from their web store.
Website tip #2: To be successful at moving customers to an online shopping experience, we need to consider their offline shopping habits. Most customers won’t care how your online shopping cart works; they will only care that they can purchase their desired items.
Needless to say, I didn’t purchase the one item I had just put in my cart. I closed the window in disgust and emailed Coldwater Creek’s customer service department. I shared the situation with them, I shared my dissatisfaction with them (politely!), and I then asked them whether this occurs regularly with their shopping carts.
Less than two hours later, I received this reply:
Dear Ms. Carroll,
Thank you very much for contacting us. It is wonderful to hear from you!
We are very glad that you decided to write to us today and share your thoughts about our website, Ms. Carroll. Your e-mail has been forwarded to the appropriate department for review. You are very important to us. We look forward to serving you in the future.
We appreciate the time you have taken to write to us today. If you have any further questions please visit our web site at www.coldwatercreek.com or call us at 1-800-510-2808. It is always a privilege to serve you.
Sue, Coldwater Creek Customer Service
While this is a very cordial email, and more friendly than most form letters, it does not give any indication that a person has actually read my concerns.
Website tip #3: When you are responding to unhappy customers, acknowledge your customer’s concerns and reassure them that a person will get back to them. Then, do it!
Coldwater Creek, I am glad you consider it such a privilege to serve me. Now, can I please have my dress back?