Holiday Reverse Logistics and Customer Service

As I stood in Walmart today, waiting for the "Ship to Store" line to get shorter, I watched a myriad of customers, turn in to reverse logistics stories.  On person waiting to the side of the line, had been there for 25-minutes.  She was desperate to get going, her daughter was crying, the kids needed to be picked up form school and she was now running late.  The sales associate behind the counter seemed frustrated, flustered, and even a bit untrained for this situation.  At the end of it all, and another 10-minutes, she decided to return the items.  This had been her second trip to the store to pick up her item with out success. 

As I finally hit the front of the line, I needed to wait a bit longer for another customer, who had been waiting equally as long as the last customer.  The sales associate asked her four times, what her last name was "again" and what her items were?  He could not remember and she was losing patience.  After about another five minutes of "walkie talkies" talk with other team members, it was decided that he needed to ask her her name again and the item or order number.  She decided to return her items and left as well.

Finally after 30-minutes, it was my turn.  He asked my last name.  Pulled up my order.  I was determined not to slow down the line.  I knew that only part of my order was in.  I had received an email a few hours earlier that day and had called to confirm that it actually was there.  He called to the team, asked them to bring it up and I waited.  A few minutes later, he asked me my name and order items.  I repeated it to him.  He said, OK, great, only a few more minutes."  10-minutes went by and he asked me my name and order items again.  I repeated it and frustration set in.  He then informed me that my order had not arrived,  and that it had been refunded me as it was not picked up on time.  Needless to day, my order was lost, and I had to reset, repay and know that it will not arrive in time for Christmas. 

As I re-read this article tonight regarding returns, and reverse logistics, I could only see the amazing way that Walmart handles their merchandise, but also wonder how much of that could be prevented with a more proactive customer service experience.  This might prevent many of the returns and self-induced "buyers remorse".

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