Since writing this blog post about the issues that many of you have had to deal with, including the 50!! of you that contacted me after the post went live, there’s been a lot of discussion on various social media about how ASOS and other plus size brands can make a positive shift and represent plus size women better.
As you know, one of the things I set out to do was open a conversation with ASOS about the issues I raised, and I’m really glad to say that it worked. All of your sharing, commenting, reading and shouting about the post got the attention of the ASOS CEO, and the Head of Customer Experience contacted me to respond. I have explicitly asked the writer of this email, Eve, if she mind’s me publishing it and she doesn’t, so I’m really happy that I can share this with you.
I have to say, I’m really surprised with the response, and how positive and transparent it is:
My name is Eve and I am responsible for Customer Experience at ASOS. Nick passed on your email to me and I wanted to get back to you, firstly to apologise – the experiences you’ve outlined in your blog post are not at all what we want for our customers – and secondly to offer a bit of an explanation and follow up for some of the situations.
So, let me start with the apology. From what you’ve written I can see you’ve had bad experiences with delivery, customer care and highlighted instances when we haven’t represented our Curve and plus-size customers in a respectful way. I am really sorry about this, it’s definitely not our intention and we take it seriously when it goes awry. One of our core values at ASOS is that fashion should be democratic and inclusive. In everything we do as a business we work really hard to make sure all of our customers feel valued and empowered both by the fashion they find on ASOS, as well as all of our communication with them and any of the content we create and share. We are always looking for feedback to help make sure we get this right, so thank you very much for your candid criticisms. Your honesty will help us get better.
In terms of trying to offer you an explanation, let me start with the coverage of plus-size clothing. There are two issues you’ve highlighted: representation across our channels and inconsistent pricing.
For the first point, much of the feedback we heard from customers was that the label “plus-sized” was not empowering for them, and as a result we removed it from the Instagram caption. However, we do understand that others embrace the term and were upset when we removed it. As you know, it is difficult to have a nuanced discussion on social media about such an important and complex issue, which is why we decided to follow up with a focus group where we could hear directly from customers who have a strong point of view and want their voices to be heard. We’ve collected email addresses from everyone who DM’d and are in the process of setting up an online focus group, to make sure we can get feedback from people based all over the country. Please don’t think we’ve forgotten about this or that it’s not important – it absolutely is and you will be getting more information on how to take part in the coming weeks.
As for the diversity of the people we feature, we are always thinking about this, not just people of different sizes but also different interests, backgrounds and cultures. We try to represent diversity across everything we do – including our social media, ASOS Magazine, and on site. We are currently in discussions with Instagram to secure the @ASOS_Curve handle, which is currently not run by ASOS.
Secondly, the issue of pricing across ranges. I want to be very clear that our pricing policy is to price items consistently regardless of what range them come from (curve, maternity, petite, tall). However, with 175,000 products on site at any given time, there are unfortunately cases where price differences occur. Whenever we are made aware of this, we correct it immediately, and are also looking for these cases ourselves. We are looking at ways to ensure there is always consistency, but it is not 100% fool proof yet.
(section removed as was to do with my personal order history)
And, last but not least, I want to touch on customer care. It sounds like you’ve had a frustrating experience, and again this is never our intention. To give you a bit of context, we often have to discuss order issues over private message because there is a lot of personal information attached to an order (your order number, name, address or email address for example) – and it’s really important these details are never shared on public channels. We aim to get back to everyone on social media within an hour, and generally we do manage to do that but at really busy times it can take us longer than that, and it is true that over the last month or so we have been busier in Customer Care than we had anticipated. We have been both upgrading our technology and reviewing our training over the past few months which should help address the issues you’ve experienced.
I know at this stage I won’t be able to solve everything for you, but I did want to get in touch, let you know we’re listening and that delivering an amazing experience for every single one of our customers is our number one goal. We will continue to work hard to make that happen and feedback like yours will help us get there.
I am pleasantly surprised with the response, and I’m excited to see the outcome of the online focus group and how that will impact their work to put more plus size representation into their social media. There are still some areas that I feel need work, and one of those is around communication. If only this information was given to me at the beginning of this journey – perhaps there wouldn’t have even been a blog post to write!
All in all, I think ASOS really have listened to the feedback given to them – but we all know words are only half of the story, and it’s strong actions that we need to move forward. Time will tell, dear reader! Hopefully we won’t be waiting too long.
Here was my response, in case you were wondering:
First of all, thank you very much for your response and for your apology. I really appreciate you taking the time out to respond – it shows you’re listening and you value feedback which is great to hear.
I also really appreciate the honest and value-driven way you have responded. This is actually all I have ever wanted, and I think that knowing a bit more about the troubles your team and the social media team have, have helped to put things into perspective. It’s also very heartwarming to hear that the issues I and the other customers in my post raised have been noticed and have been raised to those who can do something about it. I wonder if it actually would have been a good idea to communicate this to those who ask you questions like this. It’s clear to me that actually, communication is the underlying issue here.
I strongly feel that if those that have asked the same questions as the other customers and I on my blog post had got the same honest, understandable and positive response from the customer care team, perhaps we wouldn’t have got to this point. Just like I stated in my blog post, your customer care team work hard, but it really does appear as though they can’t or won’t respond with the same level of detail as you have. I know that this is probably a deliberate thing, social media isn’t always the best place for conversations like this, but it’s the communication of “no, we really are doing something, this is what we are doing” that placates people.
I’d love to be able to share this response with the 2,457 people that have read my blog post so far, and the 10,000+ followers across my social media channels. My goal with this was always to be open, honest and hopefully get this kind of a response from you that I can share to placate those who feel the same way as me. I, of course, wouldn’t publish this without your agreement – so please do tell me if posting this response publicly is something that I can do.
I also appreciate the deep detail you have put into solving my own recent issue too. I have the package now and I’ll be sending it back later today.
I’m sorry that it’s taken all of this to be able to get to this point, but I am glad that we *have* reached this point. It’s finally really refreshing to speak to you and to read this email. I am more than happy to talk about this face to face, to discuss ideas for plus size representation or share best practice – my goal is not to annoy you all (although I’m sure I’ve caused a few headaches around the office), but rather to get a better, more level playing field for my plus size sisters. We’re deserving of the fashion ASOS gives us, but we’re also worthy of celebration by the brands that clothe us. One blogger, Leah, put it perfectly on Twitter today. She said “They may sell clothes to us, but they’re ashamed of our existence” – that’s the mind set of many, many plus size women, and that’s what you need to combat.
From one Customer Care Manager to another, please apply this level of transparency across the board – and from one woman to another, thank you for taking the time to respond.
I’ll wait to hear back from you to see if I can post this response.
Thank you again,
One thing I am taking away from this whole experience is that it definitely is right to make the step up and call out even the biggest of brands on their treatment of their customers. Just because they clothe us, it doesn’t mean we have to settle for lesser treatment. There is always ways and means around everything, and appropriate ways to challenge brands to make positive steps so hopefully this is a lesson in how to do things the right way!
What do you think to this response? Is it what you hoped it would be? Do you think brands need to do more?