I’ve done a fair amount of business with Staples over the years. With four kids, there’ve been a lot of school projects with the usual last-minute requests for supplies. In a pinch, I’ve even gone there myself for printer ink, toner cartridges, shipping supplies, and the occasional computer accessory cable. Heck, I’m even a Staples Rewards member.
A couple of days ago I received an email from Staples with a coupon offer. I get them semi-regularly and usually delete them as soon as they land in my inbox. The content and offers aren’t very relevant to the things I buy these days, but I haven’t unsubscribed because once in awhile, I figure the planets might align and I’ll get a good deal on something I need.
Since my high school junior had a project due and we were out of color printer ink, I thought I’d make use of the coupon and order some ink, having the product picked and held at the local Staples store for pickup.
When I clicked the link in the email coupon to redeem it, I was taken to the Staples web site and promptly shown an error message indicating the coupon had already been redeemed.
I tried a couple more times thinking it might have been my error, but that was not the case. Staples had a technical issue on their backend that was wrongly flagging my coupon code as “redeemed.” I deleted the useless coupon from my inbox and zipped right over to Amazon and ordered what my guy needed knowing that the items would be here in a couple days.
Later, I took to Twitter to share my experience. It took the folks at Staples awhile to reply and the customer service rep who intercepted my tweet asked me to send the offending coupon so they could “look into it.”
Here’s the synopsis:
- Staples had a customer in their funnel that was at the point of conversion; they succeeded in connecting with me at the precise moment I was ready to buy.
- Frustrated when the coupon didn’t work for me, I made a purchase at a competitor’s site.
- Because their email strategy wasn’t properly executed (I doubt that I was the only person who encountered this problem), the time and effort they put into the email campaign likely didn’t return the results they expected or wanted.
- Competitors like Amazon and the flawless shopping experience they provide set the bar high and make me less likely to waste a moment of my valuable time with another Staples email offer.
- Test your activation strategies, regardless of the channel.
- Be findable and listen carefully on social platforms (Twitter seems to be a first stop for complaints, so start there at the very least).
- Reply quickly to customer interactions, both good and bad. It was about 15 hours before Staples replied to my Tweet. I understand that I sent the Tweet at almost 8:30pm and it was the holiday weekend, but that doesn’t matter to me. I want brands to focus on my needs, wants, and desires no matter what time it is. Period). Amazon does. That’s why they get my money more often than any other eCommerce vendor.
- Don’t make customers work – we’re busy enough. Like me, you’re just as likely to go to another vendor if the P&O (pain and overhead) Factor is too high. The Staples rep wanted me to send the coupon code so he/she could troubleshoot. In the amount of time it would have taken me to send the email, I hit up Amazon instead and placed my order.
- Test your activation strategies some more.
- Learn from your mistakes.
What about you – have you had a similar experience. Would you add anything to my prescriptive list?