The administrators of Comet began slashing the price of unsold stock at 9am this morning with a massive firesale.
However, it the wake of the struggling retailer's demise into administration, there have been lots of headlines placing the blame for this, not only on new owners OpCapita but also on the rise of online retailers.
As an online retailer that operates in the same space as Comet I would like to hit back at claims that business such as ours are to blame. I firmly believe that the reason Comet has gone into administration is because its customer service standards bar was set far too low and ultimately, customers have voted with their feet.
In this day and age, you cannot deliver terrible customer service and expect a customer to return or recommend you. In a recession, bad customer service is simply economic suicide. If anything, it was the company's poor attitude to its customers, deficient delivery service and inadequate aftersales offers that caused it to go into administration. Good old fashioned customer service needs to be integral to any business whether purchasing in person or through the channels the latest technology offers.
Today's customer expects far more from retailers. They should be able to use their computer, telephone or tablet to find out everything they need to know in order to make an informed purchasing choice. They should be able order any time before 10pm, 7 days a week, and have the product delivered the next day, at a time that suits them not the company. And, they expect the company to keep them up to date on the day of the delivery regarding the time it will arrive. Good customer service needs to be integral to any business whether it is a traditional bricks and mortar firm or an online retailer.
And, selling online isn't an excuse to let standards slip. It's quite the opposite. It's much more difficult to retain any of the personal touch of offline service, so you need to work even harder to make sure online customers still feel listened to and be exceptional in your dealings them. Staff should know the products inside-out and embrace every opportunity you can to bend over backwards for customers.
According to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, internet retailers are stealing a march on high street competitors. Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, commented earlier this year that "with less disposable income, consumers are far more discerning. In this environment, service will be the key differentiator, helping to deliver a tangible impact on customer retention, loyalty, and ultimately, the bottom line."
In today's market, retailers have to be exceptional every day and deliver on their promises, otherwise customers will see straight through them. Customers should never feel short-changed and there should always be a real person on-hand to help if needed. In tough economic times, customer service can help organisations in many ways. Companies with high standards of customer service are better positioned to retain customers and acquire new ones. Above all, customer service builds trust, which is becoming an increasingly essential element of where and how customers choose to buy.
It is clear from the review sites that customers were very unhappy about Comet's delivery service and their experience of shopping there. You only need to read the comments on peer review sites such as Trust Pilot (http://www.trustpilot.co.uk/review/www.comet.co.uk) to see how poorly Comet treated its customers, especially in relation to its delivery and post sales services. Why would a customer want to take a day off to receive a product they have spent good money on and be told they need to wait in between 7am and 7pm for a delivery that may take more than a month?
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the pressures and demands of trading in the current economic climate and it is always upsetting when a well-known retailer faces closure. But there is no excuse in this day and age for not treasuring your customers.
If you are an affected Comet customer who has made purchases on a credit card or via PayPal, you will be protected through the Consumer Credit Act 1974, but are very unlikely to receive your goods as most manufacturers have called a halt to their relationship with Comet.
If you would like to know more about where you stand, then check out our impartial advice guide at http://www.appliancesonline.co.uk/comet.aspx or call our dedicated free helpline on 0844 8094 937