Last year, I purchased gifts from well-known brands, such as Old Navy, Carters and H&M. Like most well-thought-out gifts, only a portion actually worked out. After the holiday season, it’s inevitable that some are going to have to be returned or exchanged.
Understanding the Customer and Their Journey
So, if I were going to put myself into a demographic, or what we more commonly call a “buyer persona,” it would be something like this: female, over 30, lives in Scottsdale, two children, likes popular retail chains in mid-level pricing.
That’s what I would look like on a data sheet. No name. No face. No screaming toddler in the car as I drive all over town trying to get to every single store with the correct items that each location needs for their particular return process.
But let’s be real for a moment here — customers are not data points.
They are people with schedules, families and tons of tasks that need to be completed. Understanding your customers requires you to do more than create a basic profile — you need to study them and map out their buying journey. Unfortunately, taking the time to produce a customer journey map isn’t something that many marketers want to do because it’s time consuming.
It’s worth it. Mapping your customer’s journey can literally be your guide into the psyche of every person that interacts with your brand.
So now I am tasked with finding receipts and getting back to the store for returns. First, what a hassle! Who has time to run errands like that anymore? Let me give you some context: I am a busy mom, with two small children and a teenager. I have a big job at a fast-growing marketing agency and my husband and I are small business owners. For me, every minute counts. I do not have time to dilly dally. With my friendly Amazon and Nordstrom apps, I can easily shop and return without hassle or issue. Customer-focused experiences and apps like these instill brand loyalty, and the data backs this up. Fortune has a poll showing Nordstrom’s is still number one in return policy rankings.
Do You Truly Know Your Customer’s Pain?
By the time I find the receipts, go to the mall, find a place to park, wait in line and actually get a refund or store credit for my returned item, I have spent far more than the gifts were actually worth, literally and figuratively.
Did you know that if you buy items online at Old Navy you can’t return them to ANY physical store? Well, neither did I.
I think most mothers are familiar with Carter’s. I bought a gift from their site and when I went into a physical location to make an exchange, I brought my order confirmation with me, in hand. The staff there told me I needed the actual packing invoice to do the return. Seriously??? I need to prove it was packed? Isn’t a receipt with an actual barcode and tags on the returned items, which match that barcode, proof enough? I asked the girl behind the counter if that was the only option, seeing as I obviously had all the necessary proof to show these items were purchased by me, and that they did, in fact, come from Carter’s. She said she would make a one-time exception.
At H&M, I missed the 90-day return window by 10 days. Due to my inability to get down to an H&M store any sooner, I got a really nice gift card instead of a refund.
Loss of a Customer…
I am still confused as to why retailers can’t get on board with a customer-friendly shopping experience. Planning and strategizing about these types of scenarios to see where and how a customer could be affected negatively by a process decision isn’t a small thing — it’s HUGE! It’s estimated that these practices can cost retailers upwards of $41B. Take this number, give or take 10 percent, and that is still a huge amount. Am I, as the consumer, expected to just accept that retailers can’t see this is all that’s needed to improve their service experience?
I have been meaning to write this blog for the past three years. The question I am posing to all businesses out there: How is your lack of service possibly causing your company to lose customers, brand loyalty and dollars? What will you do about it in 2016?
So, in closing, to the CEOs of brands such as Old Navy, Carters and H&M — as much as I love your products for our baby, toddler and teenager, I am going to only shop at Amazon and Nordstrom moving forward. Their service is simpler and easier for me. They know my pain points and they understand how to make me happy. While they may sound archaic to newer establishments, that’s the way I like to do business. Luckily, so does the company I work for as well.
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