Do monopolies need customer service?

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by Emily Atkins
Emily Atkins is editor of Inside Logistics

TORONTO – Imagine placing an online order, paying, receiving the confirmation email and sitting back waiting for your stuff to arrive. It’s basic e-commerce.

Now imagine that a day after you placed your order you received another email from the online retailer telling you in its entirety “just letting you know that your order # 123456 has been cancelled — your credit card will not be charged. We hope to serve you again soon!”

No explanation offered as to why the e-commerce order was cancelled, no offer to help reinstate it. No offer of an incentive to come back and try again. No acknowledgement that they goofed somehow.

Would you shop there again?

I wouldn’t.

Except that I live in Ontario and the seller is the LCBO. For those of you in different jurisdictions, the LBCO is Ontario’s monopoly alcoholic beverage seller.

This magazine has written extensively about the LCBO’s foray into e-commerce and the innovative and efficient distribution logistics behind the omnichannel curtain. It’s a tremendous success story and an organization that invests a great deal in innovation and process improvement.

However, this recent order cancellation has me wondering if the booze seller is lacking a customer service focus. No business trying to compete in the cutthroat e-comm world would dream of communicating to a customer the way LCBO did to me. If I had somewhere else to buy wine online, after this I would. LCBO would not get another chance.

But because I have no choice I tried the online chat service. All it could tell me was that I had made a mistake and ‘gamed’ the system by attempting to order one bottle where only case lots were allowed.

Well, excuuuuse me. If 12 is the number, the user should not be able to change it.

And if the system allows the user to change it, but only realizes its error later, how about an email saying, “We noticed you wanted one where 12 is the smallest order allowed. Could we substitute something? Or maybe you meant to order 12? Let us fix this for you because we value your business.”

Instead I spent 30 minutes on the phone after the uninformative online chat with a truly superb customer service rep. She looked up the order, found that the issue was as described, commiserated, said it was a glitch and that it would be passed up to the technical department and the customer service honchos. Then she recreated my order and passed my shopping cart back to me to complete.

So yes, LCBO got my business, in spite of themselves. I am satisfied with the resolution, but it cost me a half hour of time I didn’t really have and I’m writing this blog about an organization that until now has done nothing but impress me from an e-commerce point of view.

What do you think about this customer service episode? Did LCBO get it right in the end? Am I being too fussy an online shopper? Do monopolies need to care about their customers? Shoot me a note if you’d like to join the discussion.