A customer service study by StellaService suggests that brands might want to better educate the retailers that sell their merchandise.
The online service research firm chose two products each from four brands: Estée Lauder, Gucci, Lacoste and Lancôme. It also chose six department stores that sell the items selected for the study: Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Stella’s representatives asked the retailers the same question about each item four different times over the phone. They also repeated the process at brick-and-mortar locations in in-person questioning, resulting in 384 interactions.
According to the results, Stella concluded that brands are at risk of misinformation being conveyed to consumers about their products. That misinformation is likely due to inadequate education of the retailer’s customer service agents.
In one example provided by Stella, a question regarding whether an $800 Gucci watch is waterproof resulted in half of the retail representatives answering yes and the other half saying no. Further, in answers from four reps from the same department store, one said the watch is waterproof to 160 feet, another said he called the vendor who said it was waterproof to 99 feet, and the remaining two said the watch was not waterproof.
In a second question regarding a Gucci watch, this time one that had a choice of a black case and matching metal band and the other in white, a question was asked why there was a $100 difference in price between the two options. Two customer reps said the black color option included a coating, but one said it was to give it the color and the other said the coating was for scratch resistance. According to Jordy Leiser, cofounder and chief executive officer of Stella, another agent said it had to do with the material used while a fourth noted the price difference was because one was reduced, presumably the white one, after Labor Day.
“The answers have to be consistent. The reps are not speaking the same language,” said Leiser, who concluded that firms that are investing in hundreds of millions of dollars to market their brands are hurting themselves when customers get “wildly different experiences” that include incorrect product information.