Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Are Arrogance and Service Mutually Exclusive?

Did you know that instead of a call centre or customer service centre, lululemon has a “Guest Education Centre”?

Honestly, that’s what they call it!

Combined with the some of the comments from the company’s founder, it really leaves an impression of arrogance. It seems their customers don’t have service issues or needs – they just need more information to understand how fabulous lululemon is!

I discovered this after an order I placed online didn’t arrive, apparently without any warning. After some time went by, I looked back through the emails and finally discovered a phone number with the label “Guest Education Centre.”

Frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [wearing lululemon pants]… it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it, ~ founder Chip Wilson’s response, when asked by a Bloomberg TV reporter about consumer complaints related to “pilling” fabric in the yoga pants.

Great Personal Service

Larissa, the representative I spoke with, was very understanding and acknowledged my concerns, even giving me a gift card for the inconvenience, without me asking for it. Her great customer service, which included noting my concerns and promising to pass them along, stood in stark contrast with the arrogant title and the misleading emails.

The Automated Tools – Not So Much

I received three reassuring emails with headlines of “We’ve got your goods,” “Your Gear is On Its Way,” and “Coming your way – 2 packages.” Interestingly, in the course of the conversation with Larissa, I discovered that if I had scrolled down in the last email, I would have found out that one of the items I’d ordered wasn’t available. But really, with the initial screen reassuring me and noting the shipping address and date, why would I look any further?

As it turns out, in spite of the size of the company and its significant online presence, the ordering system is not tied to its inventory. As a result, you can order products online that are no longer available. The lack of real time inventory means they probably didn’t even have the item when I placed the order.

Customer Service and Sales Go Hand-in-hand

Do you recall the last time you couldn’t find the specific item you wanted in a store and someone helped you find something else to meet your need? Maybe something you liked even better? It can take a potentially frustrating shopping trip and turn it into a very satisfying customer service experience.

It really surprised me that they didn’t have the means to do this for online orders. Given how technology these days tracks so much of what we do, it seemed like a big lost opportunity when lululemon didn’t suggest another long-sleeve shirt with thumbholes. After all, they pride themselves on knowing what their customers want, and my order history was there for the mining.

If you don’t genuinely like your customers, chances are they won’t buy. ~ Thomas Watson, former CEO IBM

Style Needs to be Backed Up

So, in the end, I thought the customer service rep – Oops, I mean the “Guest Educator” – did a great job! However, my education included learning the company did not have the technological service tools to back up its apparent arrogance. Lululemon needs more substance to back up its style.

Maybe these issues don’t bother their target market of “sophisticated, educated and health-conscious women.” I’m educated – sophisticated is open to debate — and my income may not reach their target market levels.

One thing I am for sure: very discerning about customer service. They need to put in place technological resources that live up to their human resources or suffer the losses!