I had a perfect example this month of how horribly wrong the e-commerce experience can be – and I had Kogan to thank for it. It was a timely reminder, for me; I had begun to think that online retailers had learned their lesson and (mostly) picked up their game. Perhaps not.
It all started with the off-the-cuff decision to purchase a smart watch. I did a little research, I decided to investigate the Sony Smartwatch 2, and I searched out some online prices. To be honest I was hoping for a local store (so that I could look at the product, touch it, test the heft and ensure it was worth trying out), but that was not to be. My best options appeared to be two unknown Australian e-commerce stores, Kogan (who I knew and had purchased from before) and Mobicity (who I also knew of and had purchased from before).
Prices were relatively similar once shipping was accounted for, but I had one key concern – I wanted the watch soon. I knew Mobicity shipped from overseas, and so my concern was it would potentially take 1-2 weeks to receive the item – whereas Kogan is a local Australian store, as far as I was aware. They had the item in stock, it was marked as ‘In Stock, ships in 3-7 days’, and since they were local I was hoping I’d receive it perhaps within a week. Since I was hoping to show it off and take it with me to some related events, I placed the order. I also ordered another unrelated item. This was placed on the 21st of January.
The unrelated item was shortly dispatched and received, all well. But one week later, the 7 last day that I’d been informed the item might ship by, no item or notice so I emailed Kogan. I explained the situation and asked what was going on. The response, received mid morning on January 28th, was in essence:
“Your order has been processed for dispatch. We are currently awaiting tracking information from the courier, and apologise for the slight delay.”
This email was polite, and quite clear in the intended message – the watch would be sent soon, perhaps even momentarily. So I thanked them for their prompt response, and waited.
But by the end of day on the 29th, there had been no dispatch email received. That was nearly 2 days since the order had started being processed for dispatch, 2 days since the courier had started sending the tracking information. Hmm. So I contacted Kogan again, and asked “just checking, I still haven’t received the dispatch email – where is this sitting currently?”
Again, to their credit, the response was pretty fast. A Kogan representative contacted me to say:
“…your order for the Sony SmartWatch 2 has been processed and we are just awaiting the shipping confirmation from our warehouses.”
The main difference here was that the apology was now a sincere apology. And again, despite having to wait, and despite now missing the event I’d desperately wanted the watch for, my overall feeling was one of frustration more than anger. Kogan were responding well and fast, and were being quite polite – but the information about the delay, and the delay itself, were starting to gripe. Surely it couldn’t take this long to process an order? Just what was going on???
But later that day I received an automated response, and it held some worrying information:
“…your order has been processed for dispatch at one of our international facilities and we expect to confirm the shipment shortly. You can expect to receive your courier tracking information by email within 3 – 7 days. Kogan staff won’t have access to tracking information before you do, so the best thing to do to keep track of your delivery is to check your inbox for tracking details (and double check your spam folder). Delivery usually takes 3-5 business days from dispatch.””
A little quick maths took place, and I calculated that at best I might receive my order on Feb 7th (a date which has obviously come and gone) and at worst, even without any further delays, on Feb 17th. That meant that at best I would experience a delivery time of 17 days, at worst 27 days – when the clear expectation of a 1 week delivery had been set upfront. And bear in mind too that at no point had Kogan explained what had gone wrong, or had informed me of any delay (except to apologise when I inquired).
Also, note that this was the first time the words ‘International facilities’ had been used. It explained some of what was going on, but it also confirmed that I had been misled – wherever the item was, it certainly wasn’t on the same continent as me.
So the next day (Jan 30th) I wrote a complaint email, explaining the maths and my frustration with their communication skills. I explained that the main reason I’d selected Kogan was that they’d promised the item was in stock, had clearly indicated delivery within a week, and – since they were a local company – I had every reason to believe I’d receive my item faster than an overseas competitor. I wasn’t rude, but I clearly let them know I was not happy.
On January 31st I received a response, which said, you guessed it, “your order is being processed for dispatch and is ready to leave the warehouse at any moment“. Not only was it the same song I’d been hearing all along, but also apparently my order had gone backwards. Where the previous day my order had been ‘processed for dispatch’ (past tense), now it was back in the ‘being processed’ stage. Great.
By Feb 4th, two weeks after the order had been placed, with no communication explaining the delay, with several emails simply repeating the same line, I was beginning to lose my head. So I let off some steam with a little creative writing:
you know, this is the third email now where the order has been ‘ready to be dispatched shortly’, in this case ‘ready to leave the warehouse at any moment’. And yet, mysteriously, 4 days later – well, okay, let’s say 2, since it was over a weekend, but that’s STILL 2 business days – the order has STILL failed to leave the warehouse. Good job I didn’t sit watching the clock, huh?
Just how big is this warehouse? Do your pickers disappear in there with a tent and a week’s-worth of supplies every time someone orders a TV, leaving crumb-trails to find their way back out – and if so, how many do you lose? Or do they have to fight tigers and bears and rabid bargain hunters to get the goods – I’m imagining them running down a hill, like Indiana Jones, clutching my order under one arm whilst they scream for a bi-plane. Brave souls, they are. Perhaps it’s more like ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’, with electrical devices being chased in circles by despairing staff (and damn if a fast-moving smart-watch would be a right bugger to track down in that!)
Or is it like Narnia; you send someone for an order and they turn up a week later rambling about living like a King on the Badger’s magical throne, complete with sword and chastity belt.
Maybe there’s a time-warp thing happening, some portal appearing above Kogan-HQ that slows the passage of time in a very localized fashion. Professor Hawking could get another book out of that.
Or, perhaps, is this a case of true product love? Was my item always in stock and always just a few moments from a correctly addressed envelope, the real problem being that the staff just can’t bear to part with it? Are they polishing it lovingly somewhere, whispering sweet nothing’s into it’s ear, as I wait longingly for it’s arrival?
Because if it’s not any of those, and it’s not that desperate lack of communication OR the whole ‘lying to your customers’ thing you wisely decided not to deny, then I’m coming up empty.
Your help with my understanding of the laws of physics as they pertain to time and space as they relate specifically to Kogan HQ would be greatly appreciated here,
Thanks in advance,
Later that day Kogan responded, and the apology was there – as it had been all along. What was not there, was any explanation of what the delay had been, or how long it might continue. This time there wasn’t even a repeat of the same line. There was simply a repeat of the fact that I’d receive more information once the item was sent.
So I responded, sans sarcasm, and asked what was truly going on here. I explained that if Kogan couldn’t confirm the item for delivery for me, by a given date, then I wanted to cancel the order. I also told them that I was more than happy to accept a delay – it was being lied to that I couldn’t stand.
It seemed to have some form of effect, for later that same day (Feb 4th) I received another email stating “We are expecting your order to dispatch in the next 48 hours”. Progress, at last!
Unfortunately, it was not to be. 49.5 hour later, and still with no sign of an item or even a dispatch email, I contacted Kogan again and admitted defeat. It was not to be, no Smartwatch for me – Kogan please cancel my order.
And here, dear reader, the story would end. Except, of course, it doesn’t.
For the response to that email, when it arrived, felt like falling even further down the rabbit hole:
“We have sent a request to our warehouse to halt the dispatch of your order. As your order is already being processed, this may not be possible. Should this cancellation be confirmed as successful, you will receive an email with further options.”
So, not only did it look like I might never receive the item I purchased, but it also looked like I might just as equally never receive the refund. Or if I did, would I now be in for weeks and weeks of delay?
It’s now Feb 8th, and I’ve seen no sign of a dispatch order, a cancellation note or any further communication from Kogan. Who knows where things stand, or what might happen next – but nearly three weeks after placing my order, the journey has certainly been a painful one.
I don’t know the true story of what happened with this order, and to some degree it really doesn’t matter. I am a customer, and Kogan is a business serving a customer. Honesty comes first, and unfortunately, as a customer, I have to say that was missing. The perceptionpresented on the site was one of a local company with a local product that was in-stock. There was a clear expectation of relatively quick delivery from a well-trusted and known name. The truth, or at least as much of it as I can guess at, seems to be quite different. Whilst Kogan may be a local company, it looks very much like they were selling a product that was somewhere else in the world at the time, and quite possibly out of stock or of unknown stock status.
But perhaps that’s unfair, and Kogan were the victims of some other event. Maybe stock was initially available but mistakenly sent elsewhere, or stolen. Maybe a cargo ship went down.
But whatever the event, Kogan had a choice; be honest about it, and tell the customer. Or just keep on saying ‘Soon’ and hope the poor sucker will be happy with that.
Unfortunately, this sucker wasn’t. I may not get my watch, and I may have to wait a long time for my refund, but in the end it is Kogan who has lost. I regularly purchase gifts and technology online, and that custom will never land with Kogan after this. Already a fair number of people I’ve spoken to have changed their plans accordingly; one bad experience kills more than a single customer relationship.
Lost stock and mistakes in ordering happen, they can be expensive and frustrating. But honesty and good customer communication come free, and they go a long way towards fixing all that up. Shame Kogan didn’t see that.