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Ordering a Cake Almost Made Me Cry


I’ve never had a more difficult time ordering a cake…..


My mom’s birthday is this week. Her favorite cake comes from a retail supercenter type store – it’s actually very good, and if that’s her favorite, then that’s what I’m getting for her birthday. It’s just a good thing I was ahead of the game this time.

It took two days to order a cake. Two.days. To order a cake. I’m not talking about a cake for a wedding, or any large gathering. A simple 1/4 sheet cake.That’s all.  So let me share this experience….

Monday afternoon: I thought it would be easiest to call and place the order. I know what I want, so it should be easy. I call the store and the phone rings for two minutes before someone answers. They answer, I ask for the bakery, they transfer the call…..15 minutes later, I’m still sitting there. In fact, I’ve forgotten what I was waiting for. I call a second time and it’s the same thing, though this time I didn’t wait for 15 minutes. I gave up after 5. I have almost a week, I figure, so I leave it for another day.

Monday evening: I try again since I have some time on my hands. Thankfully, the phone only rings 8 times before someone answers. They transfer the call and I am on hold again. Three minutes this time. Progress. The woman who answers the phone greets me in a cheerful manner. When I ask to order a cake, I thought the call cut off; dead silence. After a long pause, she tells me she can’t help me, and the employee for the bakery isn’t around. This employee can’t tell me where she is or if she’s even left for the day. There’s always tomorrow, right?

Tuesday evening: I’m in the area, and while waiting to pick up my son, I figured I’d stop in and order it in person. I go to the bakery area, which is right next to the deli. I see one employee on the deli side, so I wait near the bakery area, hoping another employee shows up. I then decide that maybe this employee is responsible for both sides and just doesn’t see me. After waiting in the deli line for four minutes, the employee says she can’t help me, but offers to check the back room for an employee who can. She then tells me she’s not sure where she is, but may be in the bakery aisles.

Off I go….I find an employee stocking bread. Gleeful, I ask her if she works in the bakery. Yes, she does. Success! But wait….

I mention that I’d like to order a cake. She says the best she can do is take my name and number, and someone would call me the next day. She apologizes, and says she doesn’t know how to take orders. Defeated, I leave without giving my information, and figure I’d try again another time.

Wednesday morning: Determined, I call again. The phone rings several times (I didn’t bother to count) and I’m transferred. And I wait. And then I give up and call right back. When someone answers, I again ask to be transferred, and the woman asks if I’m the one calling about the pie. No, but if it’ll get my call taken faster, then let’s pretend like I am.

I do reach an employee, who tells me she can’t help me because she works in the deli, and the bakery employee is on a break. She doesn’t offer to take my information, but instead suggests that I call back in half hour.

Wednesday afternoon: I call back and FINALLY get to order the cake! The woman who answered asked me to hold while she went to find something to write on. When she came back four and a half minutes later, she helped me place the order. She didn’t ask all of the questions she probably should have, like whether I wanted white, yellow, or chocolate, if I wanted filling, etc. It was at this point she apologized and said she took down the information but would have another employee call me back with the total and to confirm, as she was not really a bakery employee. Well, at least the basic order has been placed. I gave my name and phone number.

As of this writing, I am waiting for a return call. But, to be fair, I just finished talking with the employee not more than 20 minutes ago.

A completely frustrating experience for such a simple task. Had this not been my mom’s favorite cake, I would have placed an order elsewhere after the first attempt.

What can be learned from this example of a customer experience?

  • Make sure the phones are staffed: the phone should be answered in a timely manner. Make sure there is enough staff to manage incoming calls. Ensure a process is in place where calls that are transferred are checked on if the call is not picked up within a reasonable period of time. Or, better yet, install a simple automated phone directory that allows customers to self-transfer to a department. While this will not solve everything, it will ease up on a busy first point of contact phone employee.
  • Keep departments staffed: employees need breaks and meals, and that takes away from the department during certain times of the day. Ensuring adequate staff is available will go a long way in plugging the holes in the customer experience.
  • Cross train: cross training staff not only helps customers, but helps your company as a whole. Since the deli and bakery are right next to each other, make sure staff know the basics of both departments. You’ll be glad you did. Additionally, when staff are trained in a department, make sure they are trained across all tasks. Sales prevention happens often because of poorly staffed sales floors or employees who are not fully trained or cross trained. Empower your staff, and your customers will benefit.
  • Make it easy: in this example, order forms should be right next to the phone. The employee should not have had to go searching for a form. It surprised me that it took as long as it did, and that the necessary forms were not readily available.

This is just one experience that highlights sales prevention; it ultimately resulted in a sale because of the situation. I will do anything for my mom, and if this doesn’t prove it, nothing will.


And for those wondering, yes, I did fill out a feedback form on the company’s website.




How Lowe’s Reaches Customers on Social Media


Retailers are looking for creative and fun ways to connect with customers on social media. Lowe’s has done a great job in this area, with a focus on reaching the younger generation who are up and coming with regard to settling down, purchasing homes, and investing in home improvement.

What are they doing? According to a recent article in the New York Times, they have a great recipe for success:

Brevity is key: knowing that customers’ attention span is short, the company created a Vine account and filled it with six second DIY tips and tricks covering a wide range of topics. One of my favorites is containing the ever growing pile of plastic bags:


Make it go viral: as a secondary piece, they wanted to allow customers to easily share the Vines and spread the word. They coupled the Vine campaign with a hashtag (#lowesfixinsix) to promote it. Additionally, they have tacked on other popular hashtags, such as #QuickTip, #DIY, and seasonal hashtags around #Halloween for added exposure. Based on our social media research capabilities, it looks like Lowe’s has strong social activity:


lowes heatmap


Take social offline: to bring the Vine content to life, Lowe’s worked their window displays quite effectively. They created displays to mirror the content of their Vine account and even displayed “live” Vine content, and coupled that with a usable “like” button for those walking by to show their appreciation for a display. Finally, they made it more interactive by painting feet in front of the display to show people the best place to stand in order to take a selfie with the window display.


lowes live vine

This effort was incredibly successful, with over 34 million impressions on their social channels, thousands of social media mentions, and over 30,000 “likes” at their displays.

Lowe’s is a great example of creative marketing, and tying online social activity to onsite engagement. They have a keen understanding of their target demographic and have engaged in a way that makes the most impact on them.