Over the Easter holidays I was reminded of the interdependence of brands (products and SERVICEBRANDs):
Last October I bought a pair of Brooks running shoes from the shop at my local David Lloyd Leisure Centre.
Unfortunately they developed holes in the mesh toe covering. As I only run on Saturdays and Sundays, my expectation was that they should have lasted longer than this. I did not think that they would still be covered by any returns policy by the retailer so I made contact with Brooks direct by email. The enquiry was dealt with promptly and I was given the following advice:
“In the first instance, please return to the retailer as this is who your contract is with. All of our retailers should be aware of our great faulty claims policy and will be happy to help further.”
“When used for its intended purposes, Brooks footwear has a life expectancy of 300-500 miles, or 6 – 12 months.” So far, so good. Brooks were efficient, friendly, helpful and clear.
I visited the David Lloyd Centre shop with the running shoes where I explained the problem and the email exchange with Brooks. It was a surprise to be told by the assistant in the shop that Brooks was nothing to do with them and that he was not aware of any returns policy or arrangement. He explained that as I did not have a receipt, there was nothing that he could do. Not as straightforward as it seemed it would be.
I decided to contact David Lloyd Leisure by email (28 March) to resolve the situation but am yet to receive a response (as at 6 April).
Then a piece of good luck: on Easter Sunday, the original receipt for the running shoes turned up. I telephoned David Lloyd to check the opening hours and was referred to the Sweatshop website “we don’t run the shops” – not very helpful. There were now three separate parties involved: Brooks, David Lloyd Leisure and Sweatshop. Curiouser and curiouser…… The Sweatshop website was clear: opening hours TODAY: 10am to 5pm so I set off, armed with the receipt and a print off of the email from Brooks.
On arrival at the David Lloyd Leisure Centre, the shop was in darkness and the grills were down. There was a guy at the David Lloyd reception desk and I asked “Is the shop not open today then?”
“Apparently not. We don’t run the shops. I just give out the key.”
The next day, I telephoned to make sure the shop was open and made another visit. The assistant told me he did not know how to process any exchange and that I should make contact with Brooks direct…… even though I now had the receipt. When I showed him the email from Brooks he stated “well they are wrong”. Eventually he agreed to call “retail support” and I explained the situation to a lady who was equally unhelpful and tried to say that this was normal wear and tear. When I read the Brooks advice about 300-500 miles and 6-12 months, she did not want to continue the conversation.
The end result? Three wasted trips, wasted telephone calls, increasing frustration and no nearer to resolving the issue.
Fortunately, Lyz at Brooks saved the day by taking control and arranged a replacement pair to be sent.
Some very simple things could be put in place to make the customer experience much better and benefit all three brands:
- Sweatshop employees are aware of and implement the Brooks faulty claims policy. If this had happened, none of the rest of the incidents would have happened.
- David Lloyd Leisure respond to email enquiries as efficiently as Brooks do.
- David Lloyd Leisure call centre employees are aware of Sweatshop opening hours and are able to assist with customer enquiries.
- The Sweatshop website has the correct opening hours.
- Sweatshop and David Lloyd employees have the same customer service focus as Brooks’ Lyz.
When brands put commercial arrangements in place, whether it be retail/distribution or outsourcing/leasing, the end to end customer experience still needs to be considered, not forgotten or overlooked. These arrangements create additional complexity but that is a concern for the parties involved and the customer should not bear the brunt of any shortcomings. Organisations no longer control their brands and the above is an example of how brands are now co-owned in conjunction with other stakeholders who can have a major impact on customer perception.