A Hapless Customer Experience: Trying Hard to Spend $1,000

posted May 28, 2013, 10:28 AM by Tia Karelson
September 14, 2012

A Hapless Customer Experience: Trying Hard to Spend $1,000

On a lovely Sunday afternoon, I venture out to buy a new laptop for Market Karma. I am accompanied by Software Engineer Guy (SEG), my technology expert. He set up the Market Karma LLC web site and has kindly agreed to set up the new laptop.

My expectations for a positive customer experience are low, but what occurs is hapless.

SEG and I walk into the big box retailer. At least five employees and an Intel rep approach us while we browse the laptop aisles. All direct their questions to SEG, only addressing me if I ask a question. None ask why we are looking at laptops or who will be using it. Most ask the generic question, “Are you finding what you are looking for?” One person hands us a form. No explanation. Just a form. From a brief review, it describes the retailer’s add-on services. Another employee comes along to explain that the two of us could each get service protection, and so could our daughter. This amuses us since we are not a couple, and do not have a child together.

I decide on a laptop and a Microsoft Office package. The product description includes the following:

·         $20 off purchase of Microsoft Office

·         1-year S2 Antivirus Protection

We go to check out. As I am pulling out the plastic, Hap, the cashier, asks SEG if we found what we needed. The order does not ring up correctly. There is confusion over the Microsoft Office price, the $20 discount, and the anti-virus protection. Hap seeks help from a co-worker who advises us to move to another register. This does not help. SEG finds this fascinating since he is working on a project for the big box retailer overseeing the register technology. 

Hap proceeds to make four separate trips away from the register. His first trip takes nearly ten minutes. We take two trips with him. During one trip we are directed to the mysterious form. The Intel rep explains that it lists the four anti-virus options. His brand is selected since he has been the most knowledgeable fellow in the store.

Returning to the register for the final time, Hap requests a phone number. Upon giving him my number, he asks, “Are you Sharon?” I say, “No. Who’s Sharon?” The computer has pulled up the wrong information. He then offers my correct address. I can’t resist asking, “Does Sharon live there too?” Hap requests an email address. I decline to provide one. Further communication with the retailer is not high on my list. The system requires an entry. He enters: noemail@retailer.com. Part of me is amused that until the very end I am not recognized as the customer. Even the big box retailer’s system calls me another name.

To his credit, Hap repeatedly apologizes. I feel sorrier for him than for us. Where is his support? 
He should not have to go out into the store four times to complete the transaction.

Finally, the sale is rung up. Market Karma has a new laptop. The entire check-out process took longer than twenty minutes.

I spent nearly $1,000, but calling the episode a customer experience is generous. It is appalling that not a single person who interacted with us knows who was buying the laptop, and for what purpose. If it were only the sexism, it would be pathetic, but not surprising. The customer experience was broken. Beyond approaching us, no discernible customer experience steps were executed. The retailer offered many more opportunities to opt out of the purchase than to opt into it. 

Improvement Opportunities:

·         Do not assume who the customer is

·         Ask probing questions: who/what/why/where/when

·         If the form is necessary, incorporate it smoothly into the process

·         Simplify promotions since individual product nuances require too much training

·         Support the cashiers. If a problem arises, have back-up so they can stay with the customer

·         Ensure that your employees, not the Intel rep, are your most knowledgeable staff members

I have a personal interest in seeing this retailer succeed. However, my desire to spend time or money there is minimal. Maybe Sharon will have better luck.  

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