I’m usually not one to sit online and complain about things. Or use my blog or Twitter page to bash brands. I work with a lot of brands and sometimes, brands make mistakes. But last night I had a learning experience as both a marketer AND a customer that I just have to share. And this is more of a lesson than a complaint or bash. Let’s back up…
Toys R Us. 8 p.m. on December 20. That alone is enough to make me run for the hills. But I had little kid shopping to do, which usually brings me to this store around this time of year. What kid wouldn’t want a Christmas present from Toys R Us? Anyways, I was at the register ready to check out when I told the associate I had a Google Offer (I snagged a great $10 for $20 offer last week in my gmail knowing I’d be at that store in the near future). I gave the associate my phone with the barcode to scan. It didn’t work. He looked perplexed. He tried again and scratched his head. I asked him to try again and maybe ask for help. So he called for another person to come over. Another woman came over and basically just told me it wasn’t going to work. Fail #1. I had bought my offer fair and square. I was redeeming it within the allotted time frame. She told me to call 1-800-Toys R Us to get a gift card. Oh joy. A Toys R Us gift card. Just what I want AFTER my shopping is done. I usually have little patience for this type of thing but I politely paid full price and left the store. Since I had a-ways to drive home, I decided to call the 800-number immediately and tell them the story. So I was directed to customer service and told the lady on the phone about what happened. I then had to describe what a Google Offer is, exactly. Now I’m starting to shake my head.
“I think I’ve heard of that,” she said. “Oh, good,” I thought. “‘I think’ is exactly what I want to hear.” Sarcasm. So she goes and talks to her supervisor. At this point I am thinking they will refund me or give me the gift card I don’t want. But no, wait for what happened next…
“Ma’am, I talked with my supervisor and we’ve only heard of this one other time. We believe you got scammed.”
At this point, my heart sunk for a moment. I once had a run-in with a debit card thief in 2005 when I first tried Ebay. Memories were brought back of this. But then I quickly snapped back to reality and realized that this woman had no idea what she was talking about. Scammed? I was completely flabbergasted. I received this offer from GOOGLE, then downloaded the app on my ANDROID, the Google operating system. No way was it a “scam.”
“You’ll have to call your credit card company and have them refund you.”
So what did I do? Call my credit card company? Nope. I just hung up and then looked at Twitter. I found Toys R Us’ official, verified account. And alas, ten or so tweets down saw this:
Oh yeah. That looks like a scam to me. Sarcasm again. Fail #2.
At this point, I thought about finding the CMO of Toys R Us’ email address so I could email him or her directly. A nice, “Heads up, buddy, but half your company has no idea you’re running a deal,” would have sufficed.
But with this new information I learned from Twitter, I decided to call customer service back. I spoke with a different woman who put me on hold for 12 minutes. At minute 13 I hung up and called back because I have no patience for hold music. So after speaking with my THIRD customer service woman, I again had to explain what a Google Offer was. “Think of it like a Groupon,” I said. Then she called Google “Groogle.” Oy vey. Finally, she directed me to the online department, where I was connected to the most friendly southern woman ever. She affectionately referred to me as “honey” and “darling.” Which if you are a southern woman, I gladly appreciate.
When I told Southern Gal my story, she sounded completely embarrassed. When I asked her if she knew what a Google Offer was, she knew right away. “The 10 for 20 offer?” she asked. Exactly.
I leveled with her. I said that I had a baby gift to buy for a friend’s baby shower next month, and she’s registered at Babies R Us, so I would try again. This time online. She said online was probably the best way and if I had trouble, to call back the online department. I’m sure if I had nothing to buy she would have helped me get my money back. It’s only $10. But this is all about the principle.
So what’s the moral of the story? Two words: Integration and Communication.
Social is great. It’s such a nice tool to be able to speak with your audience directly, and get actionable feedback and insights. And do some pretty fun and cool stuff to boot. However, if you have brick and mortar stores, it would be wise to bridge the gap between the online and offline employees. If you launch a great offer right before Christmas, you should make your employees in- store aware and be able to scan a mobile phone. You should also make your customer service folks answering phones aware of how to fix the problem if there is one. It’s the same thing as having a Facebook or other social deal or promotion. If you’re a retail giant like Toys R Us, make sure that all channels are aware and educated before launch. Do a lunch and learn. Or at least a company-wide email. Social and online marketing budgets are growing and growing each year. Only having a small portion of your company aware of online initiatives is grounds for customer frustration. The same goes for educating your online employees of things happening offline and in store. They go hand-in-hand, and if they work together, can be a great thing.