Bose: Returns Management at its Worst

Wednesday, January 3, 2007 23:44

Dell and P&G have publicly paid a huge price in China for their failures in returns management, and while this post is not aimed to do the same, it is another example of the importance of returns management and its correlation to customer satisfaction.

The story begins when I purchased a set of the Bose Triport headphones while in the U.S. in October. The set was 150USD, and until the first week of October, they were the best headphones I had every owned. While not 100% noise canceling, I heard very little of Shanghai’s street noise while walking down Nanjing Road (still could not knock out bus horns).

However, after 2 months a short in the adaptor popped the bubble as the right ear no longer had sound. It was shattering as being able to tune out while walking down the street was critical to my sanity some days.

No big deal. I was on my way back to the states and I would return them to the Bose store and swap them for a new pair. As it turned out, I had to make a call to their customer service center, so it wasn’t as easy as going to the store and picking up a new pair…

I called the Bose Customer Service number on the website and with little hassle I was told a new set would be sent 2 day air so as to arrive before Christmas. The representative was courteous and while her computer was plugging away, she actually engaged me in some conversations. Overall, it was one of the easiest experiences I had, and I was glad that I had chosen to spend the extra money for the product… even if it did short out after 2 months.

2 days later when the headphones had yet to arrive I placed a second call into the customer service center to see if they could track the package (every UPS package has a tracking number), and whether or not they had been delivered to the right address. I have learned to be a little proactive in Shanghai when things are not going exactly planned, and lucky I called.

Apparently, the headphones had not been sent yet as they were out of stock(funny.. the first rep didn’t say anything about that, but not surprising given it was the Christmas holiday) and that they would ship the next day via UPS 2 day air. Due to the holiday though, that would mean that the headphones would arrive the 24th .

On the morning of the 26th I called once again as I needed to get to the airport that day, and I wanted to make sure I would get them….. I figured they were on a UPS truck, but I wanted to be sure.

As Brittany Spears once said “Opps they did it again…”…

The reason this time was that UPS did not make their second pickup the day they were supposed to ship, but that did not explain why they had not left on the 23rd.. or the 24th..

With only two days left in country, I was starting to worry, but once again the representative did a good job of apologizing and said that he would make sure I received the headset before I left. He would send 1 day air and I would have on the 27th before noon (they would be sent overnight this time).

They would be there GUARANTEED.

Apparently a Bose guarantee isn’t worth much though as for the third time the headset has NOT SHIPPED.

At this time, I am agitated to say the least. I was 10 days, 3 customer service representatives, and a couple hours into this process, and Bose was not only unable to deliver the headset… they were not even able to ship them.

At this point it was too late, even if sent overnight the headset would not arrive in time, but I placed another call to Bose.

The FOURTH representative was apologetic, confused as to how this could happen, and even put me on hold to speak to his manager… and while they could not get the headset to me in time for my flight back to China, they suggested the following as solutions:

1) They could send the headset to me anyway at the U.S. address, and then someone could forward to me in China

2) I could go to the Bose store, purchase a new set, and then when I come back to U.S. take the replacement set back and get my money back….and all would be even
So, in essence my two options were:

Spend the money myself to send the headphones to China

  • Interesting to see Bose thinks I am financially responsible for their errors

Commit Bose sponsored fraud and at best get a Bose in-store credit.

  • Is this a new client loyalty program??

Needless to say I found both unsatisfactory, and I offered the following as solutions instead:

1) Rather than send to me in the U.S., the delivery could instead be routed to China. After all, it was their quality issue that required I call them in the first place and they had 3 previous opportunities to send them to me while I was in the united States.

  • Apparently though, it is a Bose policy that they can only deliver to United States territories.

2) Authorize the Bose flagship store in Portland to give me a set from their sock, and then they could replenish in-house.

  • Apparently that is not an option either as the service center and the retail stores cannot communicate.

In the end, I left the U.S. without the headset and a great example of how returns management is critical to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Foreign companies are always holding themselves as the gold standard when it comes to service quality and believe that the Chinese are going to have a hard time competing on the global stage because of that.

Next time I think I will save 150USD though and just buy locally.  At least I will get what I pay for and the level of quality and service will be in parity.

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