As a small business owner, I try to make sure we invest our resources wisely. With adding our new intern Joanne, we needed another work station in the office. We had a desk available and only needed a chair to get her set up. Sounds easy enough, right?


The process started when I went to my local office supply store (I’ll be nice and not mention any names). The chair that matched our others was on the floor for $99. After waiting for a while, I got the store clerks attention and found out it was out of stock in the store. He said he could check other stores, but I said I would just order online for delivery. I got home and found the same product listed for $129. That’s more than 30 percent more than the store without coupons. Frustrated, I called customer service explaining the situation. They found the product and put it on hold at another local store. I got an email an hour later saying it was ready for pick up. Things seemed to be going smoothly.
I was wrong. After sitting through traffic to get to the store, it took at least 20 minutes to bring the product on hold to the front. They rang the product up for $198. So somehow, in my continued effort to buy from this store, I was now being charged double the original price I saw promoted. After some discussion and proof of the online listing, I got the price down to $129. Throughout this discussion, the clerk told me how I should have handled the situation and that it was likely an outdated tag. His guess was that the clerk at the original store was “too lazy to do the override and wanted me to just go online.”

What can marketers do to avoid frustrated customers?

As I drove home fuming about the situation (I know it’s only $30, but its the principal of the thing and the value of my time), I thought to myself where the situation went wrong. Like many things, I took this as a learning opportunity for myself and a chance to witness first hand how marketing disconnects hurt customers. So what can you do to prevent this from happening to your customers?

1. Make sure everyone is on the same page

While it was three different locations (two stores and online), the same company promoted three very different prices. If you run promotions, make sure all offers change the same day. Clearly state when the promotion ends on all advertisements. Ensure employees know when prices are going to change so they can tell customers.

2. Train managers and give employees power

I was shocked as the manager clearly detailed what likely happened. He should know to protect the company and not blame another site for laziness. Knowing what happened, the process for handling my situation should have been easier. The store clerk checking me out, should have been able to complete the override herself, using the reservation paperwork as verification.

3. Sync your software

Given that the reservation had a price attached to it, we shouldn’t have needed a manager override to give the advertised price. Take the extra time to make sure the barcodes sync throughout your network. Scan the form, scan the product, complete the sale the first time.

4. Plan ahead, thoroughly

It’s great that this company provides reservation service. But why, when I receive an email saying the order is ready for pickup, do I still need to wait for someone to get the product from the back. If you are going to offer a service, take it all the way. Email the customer only once you have the item ready for pick up at customer service. Set up an area to hold larger products and use the space to promote the service to everyday customers. I promise you my frustration on pricing would have been much less had I not already waited 20 minutes for someone to get the product from the back.

5. Make promotions clear and simple

I saw an in-store coupon and an online sale for the same product. Not the chair, but another big-ticket item we’re considering. While having complex promotions can save you, the business, money, it frustrates your customers. Sure, rebate redemption rates are statistically below 50 percent. This means you lure customers with a good sale and hope they never cash in. Most customers forget completely and think nothing of it. However, when it comes to instant coupons and sales, nothing annoys a customer more than complicated fine print. As far as we’re concerned, be ready to keep it simple or lose the sale.

6. Fear the digital shopper

By the time the sale completed, those around knew of my frustration. I made a point to apologize to the clerk and ensured she knew I wasn’t made at her specifically, just the situation. I got to my car powered with a smart phone. Instinctively, I opened Facebook ready to tag said company in an angry post. Sticking to a New Years resolution on staying positive, I immediately closed the app. Then I opened Twitter and saw a post from this company about a sale. Again, I was very close to replying.

Collectively, about 1,000 of my personal connections could have seen the post. Assuming at least a few of them commented or responded, even more would have seen it. With the perfect message and timing, it doesn’t take much for a social media post to go viral.