Saturday, January 29, 2011

Customer Relations: How Not To Do It

A couple of weeks back I posted a piece praising House of Fraser for their excellent customer services and use of their corporate Twitter account.

Now here’s an example of how not to do it. I would like to stress that my gripes here apply only to the team at the customer services department who deal with website enquiries and orders. The staff in store (as you will see) are extremely helpful and I couldn’t fault them at all.

Last Friday I placed an order with Forever 21. They are a familiar face in the US but they only crossed the pond at the end of last year and currently have just the one store in the UK. So I was forced to use their e-commerce site. The site has an online tracking facility and so over the weekend and all day Monday and Tuesday I checked it every now and then for an update on my order status. (It continued to say ‘New Order’ right through to the yesterday morning.)

On Tuesday afternoon I was a bit worried that they hadn’t even taken the money from my Paypal account (and it was now 2 days into the 2-4 days delivery time) so I phoned them. Turns out, Forever 21 don’t like their customers very much and so they don’t want to speak to us. If you phone the number on their website, you get a recorded message that tells you to check the website for answers or email them, and then it hangs up on you. What is the point of having a phone number if customers can’t actually call you?

Now in this time I posted a few tweets, lamenting the general uselessness of F21’s service so far, and most companies, on seeing their name associated with slack service, would immediately get in touch to see what they could do to remedy the situation. Not Forever 21. No. They will just ignore you. (They don’t like you, you see, you’re a customer.) So I tried sending them a direct tweet – something along the lines of ‘Why don’t you want to talk to your UK customers and when might my order be processed?’

On Wednesday I checked with Paypal (who responded within 4 hours) to see if the problem was at their end. It wasn’t. They said they were just waiting on F21 taking the money.

By Thursday morning I was at a loss as to what else to do so I phoned the store in Birmingham. A very helpful young lady called Harriet took my details and said she would investigate and call me back later on.

Half an hour later I received an email from F21 customer services saying that my order had definitely shipped and was in transit. As they still hadn’t taken the money from my Paypal account I was dubious. I replied saying that if that was the case, where was my tracking number and why hadn’t the order status on their website been updated to reflect that? And why, F21, did it take me calling a store for you to reply to my email. Shouldn’t you have just replied anyway? Oh no, that’s right, you don’t like your customers, do you?

As I had not heard anything further by 3pm I called the store again. I spoke to Harriet again and she said she would contact the web team again and call me back with an update. Irony of ironies she called back an hour later to say that she couldn’t get through to anyone (don’t F21 like their staff either?) but she would keep trying and come back to me.

Yesterday morning Harriet phoned back to say she had finally got through to someone and the package was definitely out for delivery and a tracking number had been emailed to me. That email arrived as we were on the phone so it’s clear the customer ‘service’ team hadn’t done it until they were chased. I checked the courier’s website and it did indeed appear to be out for delivery. Finally, yesterday afternoon, a week after I placed my order, I had the package in my hands. Yes, I am very impatient about deliveries, but it is the lack of communication from F21’s end that infuriated me.

I would like to thank Harriet for all her help as she went beyond the call of duty. I will probably not be ordering from Forever 21 online again, though if I am ever in Birmingham I will certainly pop into the store as the staff there are obviously willing to go beyond the call of duty to help out their customers.

Forever 21 need to look at their operations in the UK though. Why have a telephone number on your website if there is no one at the other end to speak to? Why have an online tracking service if it is not going to get updated for days after an order is processed? Why have a Twitter account if the team there is going to ignore any tweets directed at them? Why have an email contact form if that too will be ignored until someone from the store chases it up? Well done Forever 21 web team. You have provided a perfect example of how not to use social media, and how to provide the shoddiest service I have experienced in a long time.

Have you ordered anything from F21, UK readers? US readers, is the online service over there any better? Tell me in the comments!


  1. Wow, that's really shoddy! I know they're new to the UK, but they've been trading online in the States for years now, so you'd think they'd have some idea of how to go about it. Really puts me off ever ordering from them now.

    Did you at least like the stuff you got?

  2. I've never ordered from F21 in the states but I can say that a week from order to delivery is definitely not unusual in online shopping here. Maybe it's because we're a much bigger country and things have farther to go but I've waited a week or more plenty of times. There have even been occasions when it took a week to even ship the order, during particularly busy seasons. I once placed two orders on the same day, one from Gap and one from Bravissimo, in the UK. The Bravissimo order crossed the pond and was delivered sooner than the Gap order was delivered. Also, F21 is a fairly new store in the UK and is probably trying to get kinks worked out.

  3. Amber - it was just a top that I got and yes, I love it. It's one of my 30 for 30 items so I was anxious for it to arrive in time. The quality is great and the sleeves are really long which is good for me!

    Jess - it's not the length of time it took for delivery that I was complaining about - it's the fact that you can't call them on the number on the website, and that they ignore your tweets and emails.

  4. Hi! I'm in the UK and had a similar experience with them, I'd made an order on the 17th December and they actually took my money and sent me an email to say it'd shipped. I didn't worry too much about getting it before Christmas (as the weather was dreadful!) but when I hadn't received it by the end of the first week in Jan I tried to contact them.

    Tried and tried and tried! Like you said their number just tells you to email, which I did and got no reply. I eventually got a tracking number from them and it was with HDNL. Their status didn't make any sense (only that they'd received it on the 20th Dec to deliver. I did ring the shop but they just gave me the customer service number that you can't actually speak to anyone on!

    It took me emailing every day, and threatening to send a letter addressed to the CEO via special delivery to get a response as to where the hell my package was (I wouldn't have bothered if it was a small order but it wasn't so I didn't want to lose that money!). They said that HDNL had lost it.

    When I said, well that's not my problem, I'd like a refund, I was waiting and waiting ... see a pattern? I finally got a refund last week.

    I can't say I'll be buying from them ever again (well at least not online) and I'm sorry it happened to you too.

    Wow such a long first comment on your blog! Sorry!

  5. Thanks for your (super long) comment Badly Drawn Girl. It's such a shame the customer service is so bad as the top I purchased is fabulous quality and a great fit. I know a lot of couriers had trouble with the snow over Christmas but there is no excuse for them losing your package. It was Hermes who delivered mine so perhaps F21 don't use HDNL anymore. There's also no excuse for F21 taking so long to process your refund, especially once the courier had admitted the package was lost. But like I said, F21's online department don't seem to like their customers.