Reading between the lines – a story of communication failure

by / Thursday, 28 February 2013 / Published in Blog

This is a tale of a bookseller that ought to be able to see the writing on its digital wall when it comes to communicating with customers.

I’ve just concluded what might possibly be the worst ever customer service experience, nicely rounded off with the most catastrophically dysfunctional customer communications.

As this is a blog about content and communications, I’ll try to stay focused on that. Here is a potted history of what happened to me when, after researching my options to buy an e-reader, I followed the reviews and opinions of those who mattered and purchased for my mum a Nook Glowlight: the purchase was from Barnes & Noble UK in December 2012.

Anti-Social Media

Anti-Social Media


What I was promised by Barnes & Noble UK: Next-day delivery to the UK (a premium option at checkout).

What I got: Post-purchase notification that delivery would take seven days

Order cancellation and delivery

What I was promised by Barnes & Noble UK: I could cancel the order and get a full refund

What I got: The package arriving a week later in the post to the wrong address, and no refund


What I was promised by Barnes & Noble UK: A courier would arrive to collect the misdelivered package and I’d be refunded

What I got: A return label e-mailed to me by post, duly placed on a package. No courier ever arrived.

Customer communications

What I was promised by Barnes & Noble UK: Prompt and clear redress of the situation within 24 hours.

What I got: Increasingly frustrated after making…

  • 5 phone calls
  • 4 emails
  • 4 tweets to Nook UK support (A largely ignored Twitter customer service identity – see the picture right)

While customers are saying things like this (see above) … although, admittedly, customer care did eventually tweet both James and Wayne asking them for details.

But you have to wonder – why is the company so poor at replying to emails (other than with automated replies), or to tweets via its dedicated customer support ID on Twitter? A final gasp email I sent to a different UK support email address bounced back saying the email didn’t exist, forcing me to the phone time and again to resolve an issue that was none of my doing.

I’m still waiting for that credit card refund. But the courier did arrive after yet another phone call – he took away the Nook, to be returned to its European despatch base of Poland, which makes me wonder whether next-day delivery to the UK could ever have been feasible?

It feels as if Barnes & Noble has simply copied and pasted its contact points and, more importantly its promises to customers, from its US presence without duplicating the infrastructure, customer service training or communications mechanisms to back up those promises.

Barnes & Noble’s challenge to the Amazon Kindle is a good thing generally, but based on my initial customer experience of their communications set-up for Europe, it’s left a bitter taste and the feeling that this is one company where the lights were on but no-one was home…

Must. Do. Better.

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