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Williams-Sonoma as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Breville Coffee MakerWe've all made it through the holiday shopping gauntlet. It's time to sit back and reflect on what we experienced and what we've learned. This year's holiday Customer Service lesson comes from the folks at Williams-Sonoma.

Being a bit of a coffee snob, I like having a coffee maker that grinds and brews. I've had one from Capresso that has been such a lemon I vowed never to buy one from them again, but it was expensive and I've tried to grumble my way through until a better option came along. My wife and I found what we think is a winner at Williams-Sonoma, when we saw the new Breville model.

Living outside of Des Moines, our shopping trips are generally planned ahead of time and are spaced out on the calendar. So, my wife called the folks at Willams-Sonoma at Jordan Creek and explained that she needed the coffee maker but was afraid they would be sold out. She explained that she would be willing to provide a credit card number over the phone to make the purchase so they could hold one for her until the next time she would be in Des Moines. The person at Williams-Sonoma assured her that they had a ton of them and not to worry.

You're already ahead of me, aren't you?

Sure enough, my wife went to the store to find that they had been completely sold out. There would be no coffee maker under the tree for Christmas. This set off a domino effect of customer service issues:

  • The clerk at the store said they'd be happy to order one on-line at that moment, adding that they would "throw in free shipping" as if to make up for the mistake. My wife explained that she'd been online looking at it and knew that she'd have gotten free shipping anyway if she'd ordered it online herself.
  • On Christmas Day, my wife was disappointed and frustrated when all she had to give me was a picture of the coffee maker and a promise that it would ship in a few days.
  • The ship date for the coffee maker was scheduled for December 28th, but as of January 2nd it still hadn't shipped.
  • There's been no proactive communication from Williams-Sonoma about the delay or why on January 2nd the estimated ship date still said December 28th, forcing us to have to continually initiate communication with the company to find out what was going on.

So, what's the Customer Service lesson in all of this? When a customer contacts you, money in hand, and wants to buy a product or service, you should strike while the iron is hot and complete the transaction. Sometimes providing good service means making the sale. 

- Tom Vander Well

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secondary customer service lesson: Except for your blog, this business had no incentive for "making the sale" as they sold out all the product in stock anyway.

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