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Lands End needs some decisioning power


It’s been a while since I have used Lands End but just recently I needed to order some logo wear for my son’s school and they used Lands End as the supplier for this. I logged on, used the “find your school” option and found the code for my son’s school. The website then remembered this and displayed the option to add a logo to any piece of clothing, knew what it cost to do so and could show you the logo. The site also has a PDF that lists the items to which a logo can be added based on the school’s choices. So far this is going well. I place an order for a couple of items, approve the extra cost/time for the logo and place my order. Now things start to go downhill.

I get a phone call asking me to call about the order. I am on vacation so I send an email to customer service asking them to contact me by email and they do. It appears that I have ordered items that can’t have the logo added – I have to pick different colors in both cases. This is, of course, silly. The systems at Lands End clearly know which items and which colors are allowed (the PDF is clearly generated from a database of allowed items/colors). The website could have called a simple decision service – “Is this customer/color/item/logo/size combination allowed” – that used the information they have about school/logo/item combinations to make sure I placed a valid order. Instead it allowed me to place an invalid order.

Anyway, now that I understand the problem I talk with my son and decide what colors he wants and then email them his choices. By this time, however, they have decided that I should have the items shipped without the logos. Clearly someone has a KPI for “time to ship” or something. The fact that I almost certainly ONLY want the items if they have the logos is ignored in favor of shipping it. Sigh. I get an email explaining that I will need to place a new order. Fine.

In response to somewhat snarky email I send I get a response telling me that if I call the customer service they can arrange for the second order to have no shipping charge. Why they could not do this by email I don’t know but whatever. So I call and sure enough they can help – I won’t be charged shipping on the second order and I can return the first order to my local Sears store to avoid the cost of returning it by mail.

Today the last bit of the saga unfolds. I get an email telling me the order has shipped. Now, remember, it’s a custom order as I ordered logos on these items. The email contains two lines:

If you’d like to track the progress of an item that was shipped via UPS, you’ll find out its current status at <url>
We’re sorry, but we are unable to track Custom items shipped via UPS.

The first line is clearly standard while the second was added because this is a custom order. Again, a simple “What is the tracking information for this order” decision service could have returned EITHER the tracking information OR the message saying that custom orders cannot be tracked but not both!

Now Sears/Lands End has some great customer service people – everyone tried their best to be helpful – who are clearly incented to work with me. And they have taken advantage of their bricks-and-clicks model with the returns. But because they cannot do basic decisioning, Lands End ended up:

  • Annoying  a customer
  • Having multiple customer service people call me and then respond to my emails
  • Eating the shipping cost on an order (which they expedited as an apology)
  • Forcing a customer to call when he wanted to email

How much did this cost them? I don’t know but I wonder how many similar costs they could avoid with a modest investment in decisioning….


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