How to get great customer service

It’s very easy to believe that getting great customer service is a thing of the past. There are fewer people it seems that are available to help you while shopping, and worse, the ones that are there just ignore you, or don’t care. I say customer care is taking a new form, courtesy of the Internet age. As I mentioned a few weeks ago with my issue in getting a replacement electric toothbrush kit, I have had consistently effective customer service using a company’s online chat function. Tonight, I contacted a major retailer because of a busted buckle on a jacket (no, it’s not because of too much holiday cheer). The jacket’s buckle simply broke apart and I only have had it a few weeks. Here’s what I did to fix the problem.

First, I retrieved the order number from email confirmation from when I ordered it a few weeks ago. This is important because it makes the conversation a lot easier when you have a tracking number. Second, I went to the company’s website and looked for an online chat function for customer service. I wasn’t surprised that they had it, but still, it’s nice to see that option. I really didn’t want to have to speak to someone over the phone who may not understand the problem as easily then when spelled out in writing. On many occasions, writing is definitely a preferred method in which to communicate these problems. Next, I proceeded to speak with “Thomas” for about 5 minutes and explained to him the situation. He was very pleasant and methodical in his customer service. In the end, he indicated that all I had to do was re-order an item and bring in the defective item into the store and process a refund. That I thought was pretty cool.

customer service

Credit: Bizsupplies.com

Getting great customer service is still possible!

In addition to the online chat customer service function that is built in to many large retailer’s websites, don’t forget that Twitter is your friend, too. There a few steps involved in order to “direct message” someone who can help you, you can always start to fix your customer service problem by tweeting about the company and indicating your issue. No company wants to publicly address your problem, so they will invite you to “follow them” and they will “follow you” as well in order to initiate a direct chat away from others.

I have used Twitter on several occasions in the past and it has been great for answering my questions or concerns.

Times have definitely changed in customer service, but in many respects, there are more avenues for the consumer than previously available to address issues. They just have taken a more technological form. I will continue to provide you updates on using these tools effectively so that you will feel empowered.

Home grocery delivery is great, but make sure you don’t over pay for it

Today, I attempted home grocery delivery for the first time in several years using the Instacart service. If you aren’t familiar with Instacart, it’s a “portal” of sorts for online ordering of groceries to your home or business. Currently, in DC, there are several stores available in my zip code including major stores such as Costco, Whole Foods, and Safeway. I was a little surprised that Costco is an option. I am not a Costco member, so I will attempt to use them next time to see what happens.

First, the good. Really slick interface. Very easy to select the store of your choosing and the items you’d like to buy. The selections were very inclusive, so essentially no drawback for variety there. Second, first delivery was free (normally $4 and up), which is a huge bonus given the time saved from driving to the store, picking out the groceries, driving home, and then unloading them. Third, the delivery window, even on a Sunday was very convenient. We put our order in around 11:15am and we had our grocery delivery at 1:20pm.

grocery delivery

Credit: Safeway

Now, the drawbacks. First, our order wasn’t completely available without some substitution. But, a very helpful, friendly “personal grocery shopper” called and let us know and carefully went over the options. In the end, it wasn’t a big a deal that we swapped our items, but at the store, one might be able to re-think things more easily when presented with visual options. Second, using coupons is not really possible with their platform, but they do have specials and other promotions. Third, and this is probably the largest drawback, the price differential between Instacart and Safeway.com for the same item item was substantial. Take a look at these screenshots below for a half gallon of milk purchased at Safeway.com vs. Instacart while shopping through the Safeway store. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Instacart grocery delivery

Credit: Instacart

If you look closely, you will notice that the same half gallon of 1% milk from Safeway.com is $2.79 vs. $3.49 using Instacart to shop at Safeway. In other words, it could be cheaper to use Safeway.com for grocery delivery than Instacart for the same food products at the same store.

Now, I can’t say this is a universal truth for all products bought on the Instacart site, but you should make sure you aren’t overpaying for the same item that you are buying online anyway.

Grocery delivery is a great option if available to you

Since I live in a dense, urban area, these types of services are definitely worth the delivery fee. But, if we continue to shop online for groceries, I am going to compare the native shopping sites first to see if I can use coupons, and if the prices are better, to make sure we aren’t overpaying.

How not to pay for shipping for online purchases

The holiday shopping season is in full swing right now which means you should do all you can to not pay for shipping when making online purchases.

First, as it is common with sites like Amazon, typically, when you spend at least $35 on a purchase, you can get free shipping on eligible products. That’s an important note because not all products are eligible and you might have to pay for shipping with some of their third party fulfillers and given a nasty surprise at checkout. Even better, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, their music and video streaming and shipping service, you will get free two-day shipping on eligible products but with no minimum purchase! I have bought notebooks for about $8 and had them shipped to my house for free. Amazon Prime does cost $99/year, but with media streaming and other add-ons, well worth it.

Don’t pay for shipping!

pay for shipping

Credit: Wikipedia

Second, if you are a holder of certain American Express credit cards, a competing service to Prime, Shop Runner, will give you free two-day shipping from a load of retailers. Not only that, Shop Runner membership entitles you to free returns and other member-only deals. Normally, this program costs $79/annually, but if you are a holder one of these cards, you will never pay for shipping free membership with American Express.

Third, likely only for a limited time this shopping season, retailers such as Target are offering free shipping with no minimum purchase if you buy an item before December 20! I just tested this out with a book that cost under $20 and at checkout, a note indicated that it was eligible for free shipping.

I don’t expect the Target deal to be extended into next year, but I am confident that you won’t have to pay for shipping if you take advantage of these offers.

Know any other free shipping options I didn’t mention? Please leave me a comment so I can learn about them as well.