Customer Service Fail: There’s No Value in an Answer that Doesn’t Address the Question

Sorry, Safeway, I love shopping in your stores, but I just have to call you out on this too-classic example of poor customer service wrapped up in a friendly email.

This past weekend, I was not able to find any variety of Tide HE detergent in my local store. This has been an on-again, off again frustrating problem, so I went to the website and used the contact form to send this message:

I shop at the store on Burke Centre Pkwy. Does the store not carry Tide HE any longer? I have always had a problem reliably purchasing Tide HE at this store, and this weekend I was only able to find one small bottle. I wonder if whoever stocks this area is not aware of HE versus regular? I know the labeling is not very obvious. But, people like me with HE washing machines cannot use the regular detergent.

A few days later, I got thus uber-friendly but basically irrelevant response:

Thank you for writing to us regarding a request for your local Safeway store to carry ‘Tide HE’.

Upon receiving your inquiry, we have researched the item, and found our research indicates that though ‘Tide liquid he 2x w/ tod April fresh 72-loads – size: 138FZ’ may not be currently stocked at your store, it is designated as a valid item for stocking. Please speak with a manager about ordering this product back into your store along with the UPC and order number: UPC: 0-37000-87474 – Order #: 36 01753. We will also forward your request to our buyers of Tide products for your store so they know this item has been requested. We apologize if this in any way inconveniences you. We realize how important one-stop shopping is to our customers. Thank you for taking the time to submit your product request. We do track these requests and they are reviewed often to help us determine which items to stock.

First, I wasn’t asking about “Tide liquid he 2x w/ tod April fresh 72-loads – size: 138FZ,” and, second, is it really my job to ask the manager to place an order? I appreciate the raise in my standing from customer to buyer, but that’s not what I was looking for here.

This case illustrates that good customer service goes beyond being responsive. This response doesn’t address my question so it is only slightly more helpful than no response at all. At least I know they got my message.

Communicators, be sure to not get lost in the process of customer service, and keep a focus on meaningful customer service. After all, irrelevant communication isn’t helpful; it is just noise.

As for me, after work today I am headed to Target to see if I can find some Tide HE.


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