I normally don’t like to rant about merchants. I know first-hand that dealing with buyers can be tough, and sometimes things won’t go as smoothly as they should. My last order from JCPenney, though, convinced me that I will never shop with them again.
Here’s a chronology of what has happened since I placed my order on November 14.
- November 14: Placed an order on JCPenney.com for seven items. Six were available and one, a fleece jacket, was specified as on backorder with an approximate shipping date of November 29. (I would have ordered eight items, but the site said on the final page of the checkout that one of the items was not available even though the product page had allowed me to add it to the cart.)
- November 23: Visited the Bangor JCPenney store and picked up five of the items. At this time I was informed that there was a warehouse shortage on the sixth item after the order had been placed and that I would not receive it. I was credited for that item.
- November 25: Emailed JCPenney customer support about the inventory problems I’d had with my order.
- November 27: Received a response back explaining the site’s inventory system (based on region).
- November 30: Wrote back asking about the status of the fleece jacket after logging into the site and noticing that the jacket had been changed from “Backorder” to “Not Available” on my order.
- December 3, 1:30 PM: Received a response saying the jacket was not available and asking if I wanted to reorder the item since it had once again become available.
- December 3, 11:30 PM: Wrote back with the following: “Would I be able to receive the Columbia jacket for the $23.99 price at which I originally ordered it? If that is possible, I would like to reorder the item, shipped to the Bangor, ME store as I had specified on the order. If the jacket is only available at the $29.99 price that is currently displayed on the site, then I am not interested. Please let me know which is possible.”
- December 10, 10:30 AM: Received a response: “Yes, if the jacket is available, we are able to reorder for you at the
same pricing you were originally charged. Please advise us how you wish to proceed.”
- December 10, 5:30 PM: Wrote back: “Please reorder the jacket at $23.99 and have it shipped to the Bangor, ME store. Thank you!”
- December 18, 1:00 PM: Received a response: “At this time the jacket is back ordered till 1/13/11. Do you still want
us to place the order to be shipped to your local catalog desk?”
- December 18, 4:45 PM: Wrote back telling them to cancel the order.
I strongly believe that if you complain about something, you should provide suggestions on the situation could be improved. In JCPenney’s case, there are a few changes that could be done to alleviate some of the problems.
- Hire enough customer support representatives for the holidays. It should not take eight days to respond to a support request. At the very least, update the customer service page on your site to provide a reasonable expectation for response time. (The JCPenney site says that normal response time for email requests is 1-2 business days.)
- Put an escalation system in place for follow-up support requests. Assign priority to follow-up requests. If someone is trying to reach you again, chances are they’re getting frustrated.
- Don’t use boilerplate text in responses. Every response I received from customer service included the following text: “Customers like you are our most valuable resource for creating the optimal shopping experience. Thanks again for your email. We look forward to serving you in the future.” Don’t patronize customers with text like that, especially when you know they’re frustrated. Do it if you have to on the first request, but after that, be human.
- Use an online shopping system that reads inventory appropriately. I experienced a host of inventory problems with my order. First, the site allowed me to add an item to my cart but only specified it was unavailable on the very last page of the checkout (it wasn’t available in my region, apparently). After the order was placed, one of the items I ordered was cancelled due to an inventory shortage. And the status of the fleece jacket I originally ordered, due largely to the delays in responses from customer service, changed back and forth from “backordered” to “not available” at least three times in the process. If this does happen, provide clear communication with the customer about why the change happened and how it will be resolved.
I won’t be shopping at JCPenney again after my experience with this order. I hope other merchants can learn from JCP’s mistakes in order to better serve their customers.