A Return to Lowe’s – Strike 2, and a Home Run

A short while back, I wrote up a post about a very frustrating e-commerce (de-commerce) experience with the Lowes.com website, from which I tried to order a simple gift card. Let’s just say it was a total fail – you can read the backstory here.

I decided to write a follow-up post because of one very remarkable customer-service experience that I heard about from a fellow soccer coach. And that will be described below. But first…since one of the Lowe’s web developers had talked to me after my snarky original post, I decided to go back to their site and see if they’d fixed the problem.

Sure enough, the site design/navigation was re-vamped and better structured. Yay! Also, I went through the process of ordering a gift card, and sure enough, now it was talking about shipping the card to me or to the recipient, etc. etc. – Yay! But once again, at the final step, IT WOULDN’T LET ME ORDER ON-LINE – it insisted on directing me to local stores by asking for my zip code, and I could NOT, in fact, do the transaction on-line – GRRRRR!!!! C’mon folks, get this right!

OK, that’s the bad news. Strike 2. Now, here’s the home run. Last evening, a fellow was describing the fact that he had ordered cabinets from Lowe’s, and most of the order had come in right, but 4 times (that’s four – as in 1, 2, 3, 4) a specific piece was not ordered in correctly. OK, that’s not good. Talking to the manager about this repeat failure, he was asked if he was also looking for a grill (he was). She directed him to just pick one out and pointed to the section. He protested that this was too much for his trouble, so she said she’d take 50% off. When he selected a rather high-end model and brought it to the register, he found that he was only charged $1.00. Circling back to the manager, she smiled and said that she knew he wouldn’t go through with it if she said it was free, so she floated the 50% thing to help him over that hump – but in fact, he was going to get it free for his trouble. Sneaky! And very memorable.

Did she end up creating a customer for life? Probably. Did she have any inkling that the story would be told in a format like this, engendering good will toward Lowe’s across who knows how many time zones? I doubt it. But if we can use social media to point out the bad, we should also use it to highlight the good. And that’s what I just did.

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Lowe’s to Home Depot: take 5. No, take 50!

Recently, a young couple we know and love were able to buy their first home. And, as all of you have “been there, done that” know, this involves beating a well-worn path to your neighborhood supply stores (especially, these days, Lowe’s or Home Depot) for the endless array of “stuff” you suddenly find out that you need as a homeowner.

So, as a housewarming gift, we thought it only appropriate to get a gift card. Since one of them had mentioned trips to Lowe’s, I figured that was the logical choice. And I was thrilled to see that you can just order the gift card on-line and have it sent for free – e-commerce is a beautiful thing.

Except at Lowe’s.

Four tries to simply order a $50 gift card. Four fails. Not only was the website slow and cumbersome, but when I’d try to complete the order, instead of just getting my info and completing the transaction, the site wanted my zip code so it could show me where the nearest stores were. It actively DID NOT ALLOW me to finish the purchase. A couple times, the site even froze.

That’s not e-commerce. It’s de-commerce!

So, with its brain-dead user interface, Lowe’s said to Home Depot: Take $50! And Home Depot was glad to oblige. No problem with their user experience.

When visiting the actual big box stores, my experience has been that Lowe’s seems cleaner and more nicely structured. But if you can’t replicate that on-line, then you’re going to lose customers to the competition. Would Lowe’s even think of putting a maze in front of the check-out counters in their store? Then why do that on-line? When people are ready to hand over their money, you’d better not put barriers in the way!

(UPDATE: here is documentation of the failure showing step-by-step screen flow [SlideShare file]. Oh, and Lowe’s?? I know this post seems quite negative, but I’m trying to help you here…my consulting time documenting your revenue loss is donated. You’re welcome!)

(UPDATE 2: This post did stir up some attention at Lowe’s. I actually got a call from someone well-placed in the Lowes.com environment, who spoke to me about the problem with real candor, and shared about  upcoming changes to the site. Does social media work? Yes it does!)

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