Geoffrey Meredith
Thoughts on Technology


Over the last couple of weeks, I had a chance to "experience" the customer service of a Canadian retailer, FutureShop. I have ordered from their website many times over the last couple of years. They sometimes have pretty good prices and in most cases, they offer free shipping.

My latest order was for 3 bottles of Sodastream syrup. They sold these at list price but they offered free shipping. The particular flavours that we want are not available locally so the free shipping made it worth using FutureShop.

The box arrived and upon looking inside, there was only 1 of the three bottles of syrup. I checked to make sure that I didn't get something wrong and then sent off a message to FutureShop customer service. I explained in detail that I had, what I later learned, a "short shipment".

The first response from FutureShop was and offer of a RMA number. I had to explain to them that there was nothing wrong with the one bottle that I got, and that I just didn't get everything that I ordered. They apologized asked for some more information and said that they had escalated the issue and I would hear from someone in 1-2 days. After waiting for 5 days, I asked for an update and was told curtly that my issue had been esculated and would get a response withing 1-2 days. I complained that it had already been 5 days. I was then told that this esculation was just done that day and it would be an additional 2 days for a response. After 11 days had elapsed, I again asked for an update, stating that I thought that their support had been a horrible experince and that I would be contacting the credit card company to see if they could prompt FutureShop into action. I also mentioned I would tweet my experience. The only response from the support people was an apology for the delay but no real information.

I then tweeted:

I've been stonewalled by @FutureShop for 11 days to get a response about a shipment that did not deliver what I ordered. Terrible support.

I got a twitter response from @FutureShop asking for my order number.Later that day I got a call from someone at FutureShop's head office saying that everything had been cleared up. The product that I had paid for and not received was refunded. That seemed reasonable and she even offered a 10% discount off my next purchase. That was all I was looking for but it took 12 days and a lot of frustration to get to that point.

Today, after verifying that I had gotten the refund, I went to order more syrup FutureShop. FutureShop had raised the price of that particular syrup from $6.99 (the list price) to $11.99, almost double the list price. I send a message to their customer support asking if this was an error and after a couple of hours the response I got back was full of boilerplate but no actual answer. I give up! I'll find another source for this syrup.

From my experience with FutureShop, I see that they have two types of customer support. For questions that come in via their website they must have a high volume data center, like a call center, who's goal is to blast through customer support queries as quickly and cheaply as possible with no regard to being truly helpful. Of the 6 or so responses that I got from this data center, none really answered the question I had asked. I don't blame the people at the keyboards, I'm sure that this is the results of policies set by managers.

The second type of customer support is for social media. This is obviously handled in a more responsive and high level manner. Because this is done in public, they are taking much more care to handle issues quickly and thoroughly. This is how their more general customer service should be handled too. Obviously they do not understand the damage that their existing system is doing to their reputation. I am likely to avoid FutureShop in the future because I know if anything goes wrong, it will be painful to get things fixed.