Customer Experience: how Halfords has won a place in my heart


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I notice that I experienced a interesting experience as a customer of Halfords and I want to share that with you – especially the phenomenology of my experience through the various interactions.

I place an order for a sat-nav

Between Christmas and the New Year I decided that I needed to replace my old SatNav. After a little research I turned to the Halfords website to order one. Within a couple of minutes I had placed my order and made the payment. What shows up? Happiness. Why? Because I had found the right sat-nav, at the right price, and it was so easy to place the order.

The value of under promising and over delivering

Upon placing the order I noticed that the quoted delivery time was 10th January. What showed up for me? Surprise and mild disappointment. Why? Because my expectation has been set by Amazon, delivery in 3 – 5 days. How did I deal with it? I explained away the longish delivery time. How? First by telling myself it was Christmas and so one should expect a delay. Second, by telling myself I really did not need the sat-nav any time soon. Net result, I walk away happy with the choice that I have made.

On the 3rd January, at 07:01, I got a SMS from the Royal Mail to let me know they would be delivering the sat-nav from Halford. How did that show up in my world? Surprise and delight. Surprise that I was getting a proactive alert. Delight because I could arrange for someone to be in the house to take receipt. That someone ended up being me. I signed for the parcel and was surprised to get another SMS (at 12:34) from the Royal Mail to let me know that the package had been delivered. It opened my eyes to what technology makes possible. Including the possibility of being alerted to someone else – someone not authorised – taking possession of one’s parcel and being able to do something about it quickly.

Concern, disappointment and fear

Later that day I opened the parcel and it occurred to me that I could not be confident that the sat-nav was new – had not been used before. What showed up for me? Concern and disappointment. I was confronted with a choice that I had not wished to be confronted with. After hesitation, fearing the battle ahead, I chose to return the item.

Surprise and delight: Halfords makes it so easy by taking the customer perspective

The process of dealing with my issue was made easy by Halfords. How? On the delivery note Halfords had considered my needs and provided a customer services telephone number and the order number. My thought, my experience? Thank you for making this easy. Next I rang the customer services number and surprise! What showed up?

My call was answered pretty much immediately once I had selected the right option, and selecting the right option from the IVR was easy/quick. The young lady on the line was friendly/helpful. I explained the issue and told her that I wanted to return the sat-nav. She did not ask me 101 questions. She did not argue with me. She did not try to persuade me of her point of view. She did not offer a point of view. She listened and then asked me what I wanted: a refund or a replacement?

I chose a refund. And I asked to return it to the nearest store rather than go to the effort of repackaging it, going to the post office, waiting for it to be received by Halfords and finally getting my refund. She asked me to hold. I waited several minutes and then she came back on the line and asked me to make a note of the returns no. And told me to give this returns number to the Halfords store personnel to get my refund. How did this show up for me, what was my experience? Sheer delight. I remember saying to myself “How helpful! I made the right decision to buy from Halfords.”

benevolence/trust begets delight and advocacy

About an hour after this telephone call I arrive at the local Halfords store and approach the man at the till. He listens politely and then tells me that he cannot help me out and directs me to the back of the store where the returns/refunds are made. As I walk to the back of the store what is present for me? His helpfulness, his smile and a genuine sense of regret that he was not able to help me out.!

Upon arriving at the returns/refunds desk I hit a snag. Why? I notice that I am being asked a set of questions. What shows up for me? Bewilderment and annoyance. Why? Because I had a fault expectation based on superior experience with the details of the matter at hand. So I step back and explain that I had purchased online, that I had called customer services, that they had given me a returns authorisation number. Now he (the manager) and I are in the same picture, we have a shared sense of what is so and what needs to be done. We both smile!

Next, the manager (who is helping me with my return/refund) asks for the invoice. I tell him that I don’t have an invoice on me. Why? I assumed that the returns number would be enough – that it would identify my transaction for the store staff. The manager tells me that he does not know what I paid for the sat-nav and thus what he needs to refund me. I get his predicament. I can go home and get the invoice or you can refund me £89.99 which is what I paid for it. Without hesitation, the manager accepts my word and processes the refund. What shows up for me? I am ecstatic at his benevolence. He has every right to not process the refund until he see an invoice. Yet, he chooses to trust me. I ask myself “How often does this happen? Wow, this is great, this is the way I want business folks to deal with me. Honesty on both sides. Trust on both sides. Benevolence on both sides.” As he hand me my refund he smiles, I thank him, we make some chit-chat which is appropriate to the circumstances. I wish him the very best for 2013 and he wished me the same.

Summing up

I am grateful to Halford. I am grateful for the way that they made it so easy, so effortless for me to do that which I needed to do. I am grateful that they have integrated online with offline. I am grateful that they have friendly/helpful people answering phones and helping customers out in the stores – from the person on the till to the manager. I am grateful for the humanity in Halfords that showed up for me in my dealings with Halfords.

And I notice that what really made all the difference is this: at every point in my dealings with Halfords it occurred to me that Halfords was there to help me out with that which I needed help with. That is to say Halfords showed up in the way that a friend would show up. This is how my brother (who owns/runs a car business) deals with me when I deal with him to get my motoring needs met! And that is a high standard to match. So I say thank you Halfords. You can count on me to come to you first as and when I need that which you sell. I am traditional, I say one good turn deserves another.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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