Oh, I love a bargain! That feeling of making a purchase and saving a whole heap of money without leaving the house has tempted me; like many others to embrace the relatively new concept of daily deals sites. Without so much as putting on shoes and a coat, I and other savvy shoppers can surf the net and with a few clicks, can book days out, leisure activities or have shiny new products winging their way to us all from the comfort of our own homes. Sounds perfect, doesn't it?
Yes, you've guessed it…there's a huge “but” coming. Well, actually, more like an exasperated sign and a growing disbelief that even in such tough economic times where retailers are going out of business faster than a rat up a drain pipe; it has appeared to me in my recent experiences that shopping to grab daily deals is more hassle than it's worth.
Take Mighty Deals, for example. They proudly state a 100% risk free, 7 day money back guarantee and further claim “1. Buy your deal 2. Receive your voucher 3. Redeem your deal 4. Enjoy! It's as easy as that!” I beg to differ.
At the beginning of December, I ordered 6 products from 2 merchants via the Mighty Deals site for Christmas presents. The first merchant, The Internet Shop UK stated on the voucher that all orders would be despatched during the first week in December. Here, I ordered 4 of the same item, which had to be ordered using 3 vouchers and subsequently 3 amounts of postage paid. When my orders hadn't arrived within 10 days, I emailed both the merchant and Mighty Deals (no response to phone calls) yet the only response I received was that they would contact me soon. They didn't. Further emails and calls ensued without response and I finally received my items in 3 separate packages in the week before Christmas with one day to spare. Phew!
Not so lucky with the second merchant Urshu, who sent me one of the 2 items within their stated 10 day delivery period. I paid for 2 items and 2 lots of postage, however they ignored all my emails and telephone calls. 6 weeks of contact began with complaining to Mighty Deals via their online ticketing system that I had not received the second item. Each time, I would get an auto-responder to say that they would get back to me in 3 days; they didn't. This was then followed up by emails saying that my case had been resolved! Mighty roar!
To cut what is beginning to be a very long story short, I eventually got contacted by a customer service adviser to tell me that I needed to contact the merchant. (Are you kidding me?!) Lots of repetitive emails back and forth and eventually Urshu contacted me last week to say that they would refund my postage by cheque. This arrived this today and yep, you've guessed it; I haven't received a refund for the product from Mighty Deals who once again have disappeared off the planet.
Out of pocket…out of my mind!
It certainly doesn't fair any better for the daily deals site Living Social. A simple purchase on the 21st December has led me on the wildest cat and mouse chase I have known in retail land with the same old scenario; no product and dismal customer service from both the daily deals site and the merchant My Avarice who have ignored all my calls (direct to voicemail) and emails with the exception of yesterday to say that my order would be with me soon. Living Social on the other hand have exchanged useless emails, with me having to repeat myself to clarify the situation. The second to last email from them yesterday said “Please note that delivery can take up to 10 working days. If you have not received your item by the 4th of March, please let us know and we would be happy to chase up the merchant.” After replying to them stating that 10 and a half weeks was an unacceptable time frame to wait, I was just pacified with a final email saying my transaction was with the merchant (I paid my money to Living Social) and I should contact them. They then gave me a non-existent phone number and incorrect email address.
Living Social do state on their lengthy terms and conditions that they are a marketing site and without boring you (although you can find it all on their website) with the full text, they pass all responsibility onto the merchant and the buyer for any purchases. Smashing, but I made my purchase on their site and paid them for the product before they recompensed My Avarice minus their slice of the commission pie.
So, my question is this:
Where does the passing of the buck stop and the customer service start with daily deals?
When I run training sessions on customer service, I aim to get my learners to realise that great customer service can only be defined as meeting or exceeding customers' expectations. There are of course many techniques that can be adopted to teach or hone customer service skills and ensure staff uphold the organisation's standard operating procedures, however, I believe that the only way to tap into the needs of the customer is to listen and actually hear what they say – or in my experiences above; read.
In my cases with the daily deals sites, I wasn't asking for anything unreasonable. Send me my products or give me a full refund. Nice and simple. How on earth has the process of ordering goods online become so complicated?
The thing that baffles me most of all is the time it has taken to not even gain a satisfactory resolution. Time costs money, so surely it would make good financial sense to refund me for my purchases and close the cases? That's not even a customer service issue; it's common sense.
I have also had my fair share of non-delivery and subsequent refunds from the daily deals sites Wowcher and Groupon. 2 out of the 4 products I ordered for Christmas presents failed to arrive from Wowcher, however to their credit, they did refund me promptly. A meal out in London proved to be a complete disaster from a voucher purchased on Groupon; the deal was nothing like the description and the place was closed when we arrived despite having booked. Groupon was fantastic, sending a profusely apologetic email and adding credits to my account.
The main difference to me is the communication and accountability by both Groupon and Wowcher. Although the less than perfect transactions were a pain in the neck, I still felt valued as a customer. Mistakes do happen from time to time, but they were rectified promptly and I was not ignored. They met my expectations in handling my issues. They served their customer.
The internet is growing daily, and with more and more retailers opting to trade online, customers choosing the convenience of home based shopping and competition to secure business fierce, surely providing great customer service should be at the top of the agenda for those determined to survive in e-commerce?
Is a non-face-to-face shopping environment a smoke screen of acceptance for the beginning of the death of great customer service?
Does getting a deal mean that the customer is less important and therefore the cost saving is a bartering tool of acceptance that their needs don't have to be met or exceeded?
So, are daily deals sites really a bargain? Sadly, not all of them are proving to be for me. I value my time and my hard earned cash so will be choosing to make future purchases with retailers who value my custom.
Author Jules Halliday