With modern business so defined by customer centricity, it seems an absurd statement of common sense to suggest that the way to get customers back on side after a poor experience is to make them happy again.

That's obvious right? Sort of, except that many companies simply apologise for downtime and then carry on regardless.

ASOS must be credited for turning a crisis into an opportunity with its email marketing.

The crisis

The ASOS website and app were down for more than 12 hours on Friday, prompting many to suggest Brexit had begun its wrathful decimation of business and society.

In fact, it was apparently due to a power outage at a third-party data centre.

More practically, this crash will have a led to a number of stalled orders, including checkout fails that are naturally the nightmare scenario in ecommerce, as is such a long period offline.

The response

The website and app were back up again on Saturday and this morning ASOS sent the below email out to its registered shoppers with the subject line 'Sorry, can we make it up to you?'

A 10% discount for one day was offered to all shoppers. 

It was a simple thing to do, but the right thing to do and the copywriting within helps to keep things light - saying ‘yes, even on sale items!’ and using BIGTHANKS10 as the discount code, showing the retailers gratitude for the patience of its customers.

Though email is well-known as the best tactic to give an uptick in sales (and something ASOS uses a lot of), and the discount code offers added incentive, this isn’t a cynical tactic from ASOS - it is what all retailers should do after service failure.

asos email 

The wider problem

However, though ASOS is a unicorn and rightly praised for its UX, a quick look at Trustpilot shows that ASOS is poor when it comes to service fulfillment.

A rating of 3.8 out of 10 from nearly 2,000 reviews. Yes, aggrieved customers can be more vocal than the satisfied, but this is still an alarming figure.

ASOS does not offer a phone number for customer service and this is often a sore point for digital pureplays, where customers cannot go into store.

Customers often complain that social media service is slow in coming, and the retailer was recently suspected of using a bot to reply to Facebook complaints.

asos automated

As much as ASOS is lauded for slick UX, many customers feel that as soon as something goes wrong, that experience falls down.

It's a complaint made of many other auspicious brands - John Lewis springs to mind and its delivery service.

What this shows is how difficult it is to align service levels across many departments in a big company.

ASOS is very good at marketing, as shown by its response to Friday's outage, but the challenge for pureplays, day to day, is how to generate customer love despite something going wrong, via a proactive customer service department.

This is where brands such as AO.com excel - even responding to unsatisfied customers on the Trustpilot website - and is a mark of joined up organisations focusing on lifetime value over pure sales volume (despite selling tertiary goods).

Some of ASOS's customer service issues may be explained by fast international expansion (and contraction in some areas), and one would hope that after rapid growth, the retailer looks to offer a world-beating customer service proposition as the cherry on the cake.

Ben Davis

Published 28 June, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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