***I’ve never really been one to shy away from controversy, so this post is going to be of no exception. It’s also quite long, so if you’re wanting something a little easier to read, check out my fashion trend forecast for A/W16!***
For fat women, it’s kind of rare to have a company that provides fashion forward clothing, trend led and with perks such as unlimited 1 day delivery and loyalty points. But the trade off from that shouldn’t be poor service or treatment from a brand.
I am writing this post after being let down by ASOS on several occasions. I have previously contacted their customer care team to talk through issues and I haven’t had one positive experience with them. I have also spoken to several other customers who have had similar experiences. I’m hoping that this post opens discourse with ASOS that’ll lead to positive change. This is a big risk for me to write as a fashion blogger, as I obviously need to create positive mutual working relationships with brands in order to do my job – I’m hoping that this risk will pay off for a positive outcome for thousands of other ASOS customers.
Of course, you must realise that what is written in this post is only one side of the story. I am not privy to the day to day running of ASOS nor how their Customer Care and Social Media teams work. This post, although containing true stories from real ASOS customers, contains non-fact based opinions about the day to day running of various departments within ASOS. I have sent this post directly to the CEO of ASOS and asked for a response which I intend to publish, unless requested not to.
ASOS do have hundreds upon hundreds of successful transactions on a daily basis and great customer service stories that we do not hear of, and they provide a service that many other retailers can be envious of, but does that mean we have to just put up and shut up with when it does go wrong?
The list is getting longer by the second. Tales of poor customer service experiences, delivery issues and social media posts that hit so far off the mark top the list, closely followed by inconsistent pricing and the apparent embarrassment of running special lines such as Plus Size, Maternity, Tall and Petite (but especially plus size… I shall get onto that later).
It seems to Joe Public that this fashion GIANT appears to be struggling to cope with customer demand and is single handedly sabotaging their customer experience journey. The tales of poor experiences and the experiences of thousands of plus size women who have been personally offended by ASOS’ lack of representation should not be ignored – hence why I am writing this post so publicly.
Well, I don’t know *what* has changed, but something definitely has. I personally believe it’s to do with ASOS seeming to use Social Media as their main way to communicate with their customers. Social media is instant – if you are conversing, you expect to have a response immediately. Okay, ASOS Here to Help are quick to answer an initial tweet with a response of “Oh no! Sorry to hear that, DM us your (personal info) and we’ll take a look (emoji face of some kind).” You then DM them, expecting to hear back with the same speed as they tweeted you. Previously, their response rate appeared to be quite instant – around the 1 hour mark.
These days? Well, I have heard stories of ASOS taking DAYS to respond to people’s DM’s. In my own personal experience, it now takes ASOS several hours to respond – a previous matter which could have been fixed if got to early enough took several days to be sorted thanks to their lack of getting to me on time. You also can get a stream of “sorry you feel this way” tweets if you push them for a response (which vary in tone of voice). They shouldn’t be sorry that I am feeling a particular way, they should be sorry for the lack of service, or sorry for the wait, or sorry to be taking so long… why is it that they use such a veiled blame changing phrase? But choice of words is a very small part of a much larger beast.
So you also might have noticed that ASOS have a tone of voice that is very “down with the kids”. Littered with emoji use and slang terms which, I’m pretty sure, they think mask their apparant failings in customer service and off-the-mark social media. If I’m angry with a company, I don’t want to be sent cute emojis or given things like “oh man that is whack” – I actually just want them to fix my issue. They’re a gigantic company and they have the ability to do things that can impact their customer journey and experience positively, and at the moment, it seems they’ve pumped all their money into this bizarre tone of voice that they think makes them relatable and less likely to be angry with.
Now, I’m not naïve. I know that this tact could possibly work for some customers but OH MY GOD, telling me that something is “whack” and following that up with not fixing the issue is like kicking me in the crotch and spitting on my neck. But to me, this isn’t the fault of the Customer Care or Social Media team – you know that customer service agents do the very best that they can with what they have and with ASOS being a multinational company, I’m sure that demand can often be stratospheric. No, this runs a lot deeper than those teams. I personally believe a culture shift needs to happen within ASOS.
I’ve got 10 years of Customer Service under my belt and I have ran my own Customer Service departments for the past 4 years. I’m also (obviously) a plus size fashion blogger – so I’m both consumer focused and business focused when I write this post.
- Employ Social Media experts
A prime example of social media going terribly wrong is something that happened recently on the ASOS Instagram. ASOS posted a picture of one of their ASOS Curve models (also known as a plus size model, by industry standards). They labelled her as such (correctly so, no negativity there) and because two or three THIN women – that’s non-plus size women – said she wasn’t plus size, instead of explaining why they used that term, ASOS said that plus size is a “whack term” and that “industry labels suck” so they removed it. They removed a term that they use when selling fat women clothes. A term that is good enough to describe their customers as, but god forbid they call one of their own curve models it. In doing so, ASOS perpetuate that notion that being plus size is a negative thing, thus alienating the thousands of plus size women who shop from them.
Quite rightly, there was a huge social media backlash for ASOS, and how did they handle it? They asked us to DM them on Twitter. They asked us to send them what we have already been sending them, just in a less public forum (remember here, we aren’t giving any personal information out, we are giving opinion so there is no data protection issue here). Now, knowing how some customer service platforms work (I personally work with Zendesk) I know that moving something to the DMs can mean you get your queries into a work queue on some third party software, so I totally get why. But to then tell plus size bloggers, customers and others (myself included) that they wanted to invite us in for a focus session on what we have tweeted about, we finally felt heard. But so far, we’ve not been invited anywhere. And when we did DM ASOS, they just thanked us for our feedback. And when we asked them when we would get our invites and how to sort them out? They ignored us.
Let’s not also forget the lack of representation on the ASOS social media channels of plus size, tall, petite and maternity clothing. The above issue is representative of how ashamed ASOS appear of their filter ranges, backed up by their refusal to use customer photos or bloggers that do not fit into their main range as often as they do their straight size counterparts. Just a quick look at their Instagram feed will show you a handful of plus size bodies. We are their customers too, and we deserve to see their clothing on bodies like ours. The same goes for their ASOS magazine – the last one I read, there were three items from their plus size range in there. THREE ITEMS. And not a plus size body to be seen. Why? Their plus size social media is on an “unofficial” page (see the unofficial Instagram and unofficial Twitter), which are clearly ran by them as it co-incides with their official Facebook page. They used to have a brilliant Curve girl in Felicity Hayward, but since she left, there’s been nothing. Why haven’t we been introduced to her replacement…wait, do they even HAVE a replacement?! ***EDIT – Yes they do, Lauren is their Curve Insider, but this was not revealed on the main ASOS social medias, just the “unofficial” ones. A quick look at Lauren’s Insider picks shows mostly main range clothing – weird for a Curve Expert? ***
- Invest your training time wisely
This one isn’t a hard one to do. I don’t care about what cool tone of voice you have if you are failing at the fundamental reasons why a human contacts you. A person will contact you because they have an issue – fix it. Don’t give poor excuses and hide them behind emoji’s and slang words. One of the first rules of customer service is to actively listen – and to do that you cannot use canned responses. Or, if you are going to pre-write answers, they need to be easily customisable.
It’s seethingly bad to be met with a response that looks like you are telling the customer it is their fault for feeling angry – a lesson in positive customer service phrases could change that, as well as knowing when and more importantly how to apologise. If ASOS’ SLA’s (service level agreements – something that most companies use to measure key measurables such as customer satisfaction or resolution time) are slipping, it’s probably time to start looking at their staffing levels or apply some Lean methods (lean – a methodology that maximizes customer value with fewer resources). It appears to me that there is a huge lack of strategy, instead they are throwing resource at something that they have no plan for.
- Look after your Premier customers
I pay ASOS every year to be a Premier customer. To me that means, I should be getting a premier service. So far, all my money gets me is one day delivery that I’m lucky to get on time, if at all and a magazine every so often that, at best, includes one or two pieces that I can actually wear because I’m plus size. It is not a hard feat to look at a person’s buying history, see that they buy plus size and tailor a magazine for plus size people to be sent to them. And on top of all this, I have to have the same customer service you offer everyone else? I challenge ASOS to use customer data and tailor an experience for those who are their most loyal customers – we are their cheerleaders, and they don’t want to piss us off. Right now, if ASOS were to send me an NPS survey (net promotor score, measures how likely your customers are to recommend you and keep using you in the future) I’d mark them as zero. A couple of years ago, that would have been a 10.
- Sort out your delivery service
Again ASOS, by using customer data and buying behaviours, it is very easy to identify who is having items delivered to a business address. Royal Mail even offer a service to flag these to you at a cost (which you can then use with other delivery services). Don’t send couriers to business addresses after business hours for crying out loud! And should a person order two packages, one after the other, consolidate them into one delivery drop, not one at 1pm and the other at 7pm. That one is just common sense and standard drop order behaviour. And when you find that something hasn’t worked, don’t just send a canned response of “we can’t do anything when it’s in transit” YES YOU CAN.
Get a manager over and get them on the blower to the depot. Better yet, create a department who do nothing but liaise with couriers and call it second tier delivery support. Once that’s been created and you have negotiated to get a direct line to a courier, get them to change the drop order. This happens to couriers ALL THE TIME, I know, I have done this myself personally on numerous occasions and on the occasions when I couldn’t, it was because I physically could not get on to the driver whilst he was driving. And you know what I did then? I GOT MORE STOCK AND SENT IT OUT SAME DAY whilst waiting to recall the first package. It really isn’t a hard thing to do. And for god’s sake, if a customer service agent can’t do something, escalate the message to a manager or second tier support.
But don’t just take all of this from me, I asked my followers for their opinions, so here’s some real stories from real customers (I have contact details for all of these women, but for Data Protection reasons, I won’t be publishing them):
“I ordered my wedding dress from them. It didn’t fit and unfortunately I’d left it too long to return. I tweeted and asked to send it back and got the stock response to DM them. It’s been a month and I’m still waiting on a response. All I wanted to do was exchange for another size, but I’ve had to go elsewhere. It’s been an added stress on my wedding day plans.” – Nicola via Twitter
“It took them weeks to respond to my several DM’s. I ended up having to tweet them once an hour to remind them to respond to me. It’s still not fixed now and I’m still missing items that I have been charged for.” – Chloe via Twitter
“I ordered a choker from them on Tuesday for Next Day Delivery. Item was routed to the wrong delivery depot. Contacted ASOS on Twitter and they took 12 hours to initially respond. Then the item arrived this morning so I tweeted how unimpressed with their customer service response times and they didn’t seem bothered.” – Claire, via Facebook
“Twice I’ve had parcels basically just disappear on me. They get to a certain point in tracking (Hermes and Royal Mail) and then just don’t move on from that point?!? Once with a whole MONTH with no news. And then I get an email saying “We got you’re return” and it’s like ????? Only time this really really frustrated me was when I ordered something beautiful that was nearly out of stock in my size and didn’t even get my mitts on it. When I’ve followed up with customer services they’ve said “you’ll have to get another sorry” which is pretty annoying, especially as I said if the item is all gone now.” – Danu, via email
“My issues with that plus size Instagram pic is my obvious choice and I’ve had issues with their ASOS here to help that have gone on for days and caused me to rip my hair out!” – Danielle, via Facebook
“Their social team need retraining, and they need to actually listen to their plus customers when we tell them they’re not doing enough!” – Georgina, via Facebook
“They focus so much on street style but where the plus bloggers? I’ve blogged about them several times, tagged them and so on and ok I may not look banging but there are plenty of women who do and they never get any coverage! They constantly give coverage to straight size bloggers.” – Laura, via Facebook
“I was completely ignored by them after I moaned about my gold ring turning almost completely silver and staining my skin within 6 hrs of it being delivered.” – Katherine, via Facebook
“I think the main problem I’ve had with them lately is their social media. They really need some plus sized bods in control of it and I also think they need to shout about their range a lot more. I don’t think they do enough to advertise it or give it pride of place enough. When you log on or go onto the app there’s nothing loud and proud about curve on the opening screen. It feels very “shoved to the back”” – Laura, via Facebook
“i ordered a dress and it didn’t arrive. Wouldn’t mind it was for a event I had to attend , 11 weeks later the dress turned up! I was livid.” – Nel, via Facebook
So the ball is in your court, ASOS. I’m excited to hear how you’re going to fix these issues, as are the women who’s stories I have mentioned above, and the hundreds of other customers who have had issues with you in the past. If you truly care, if you’re listening to us, I’d invite and publish in full your feedback and response to this post.