My cookware broke but what happened next surprised and delighted me

Originally published on the Bytemark blog

Five years ago, I purchased a £250 set of Circulon cookware that comes with a “lifetime guarantee”:

After a few years of use, the non-stick surface began to degrade severely. Against the manufacturer’s preference, I’d been using it in the dishwasher and I’d lost the receipt, so I was unconvinced that Circulon would honour their guarantee.

Nonetheless, I sent their (quiet) Twitter account a disappointed tweet.

I received a reply the next morning: after a short conversation, their Twitter team quickly arranged for their customer service to be in touch with me to take more details by email. Within three weeks, I received a completely new set of pans!

This is great and I’m very happy. Yet this isn’t a promotional post about pans – there’s a lot we can learn from this:

1. Show empathy with customers’ problems

Apart from the cookware itself, this was my first interaction with Circulon’s manufacturer and it was the start of a great customer experience.

I was disappointed when I sent Circulon my tweet. I didn’t consider who would be responding to my tweet, if anyone.

To their credit, the person behind the Twitter account kept the response polite and showed empathy with my dissatisfaction. They clearly understood I was disappointed and wanted to restore my confidence in their product.

2. Aim to answer customers through the channel they choose

We often receive enquiries or support requests through Twitter, which falls outside our usual defined way of receiving requests.

As a customer, I’ll always pick the method of contact that’s most convenient for me – firing off a tweet for something that isn’t worth a call or an email.

3. Don’t make the customer repeat themselves if you need to switch channels

Twitter isn’t always an ideal channel to help resolve a customer issue, particularly with regards to customer’s account security. Sometimes we need to move to different channels, such as email or phone. If so, keeping the context of the request makes the switch a smoother experience

Circulon made sure that when I was emailed by customer services they were already informed about my experience to date and simply required details that I couldn’t share over Twitter.

4. Keep our promises

The most important part of the story was that Circulon kept their promise. They honoured the lifetime guarantee of the pans and I wasn’t required to show proof of purchase nor return the original set. During product development, the manufacturer clearly put thought into how they’d fulfil the promise of a lifetime guarantee.

This is something that we pride ourselves on too. We do it by making sure we promise the right thing to our customers when they ask us to help.

Sometimes that also means saying no: we can’t always offer what a customer needs at the price point they require, especially as we only quote from list prices.

We do confidently stand behind what we provide to customers and our support team are independently empowered to solve things confidently – we try to avoid bouncing up a chain of command where possible.

A ‘lifetime guarantee’ of great customer experience

When I bought a set of fancy Circulon pans with a lifetime guarantee of replacement, I also bought the promise of new pans if things went wrong with the old set.

Circulon fulfilled that promise and delivered a great customer experience at the same time. They know their brand is reliant as much on the style as the delivery: when things go wrong, it’s how well you respond that keeps customers happy and even encourages referrals. I’m happy to continue recommending them and I’ve even learned some lessons along the way!

What brands have delighted you when you’ve encountered a problem? Let me know in the comments!

Is now the right time for scan-and-go in supermarkets?

Sainsbury’s is resurrecting a new concept and trialling a scan and go solution for shoppers. The Next Web reports

Sainsbury’s supermarket is trialing a new service called Mobile Scan & Go that allows users to shop with their iPhone or Android phone and pay at the till without unloading their trolley or bags.

I’m sure it was over 10 years ago that supermarkets started rolling out a “self scan and pack” solution for in-store shopping. In a time before the smartphone however, shoppers used handheld barcode scanners that were held in banks at the entrance to the store. Once placed back into a dock, shoppers received a special receipt that allowed checkout operatives to take payment as normal.

Ultimately, the self-scan system didn’t last long – I’m guessing they were just trials and shopper resistance to technology probably scuppered it.

Self-scanning also launched on the cusp of reliable Internet grocery shopping – Webvan had gone bust, Ocado had just launched – so maybe shoppers that wanted to avoid checkouts simply went online rather than go through the theatre of picking out bananas at their preferred ripeness.

But in recent months, that concept has made a comeback. Last year, Apple launched EasyPay, which allows you to scan your own items at participating Apple stores, pay with your iTunes card details and leave the store.

Unlike Apple, which uses geolocation and in-store wifi to work out which store you’re in, the Sainsbury’s system requires you to scan a QR code to “check in” to the store then take your phone to the till where payment is taken after scanning a code to “check out”. No details yet on whether you’ll be ‘randomly selected’ to have all your shopping re-scanned, as used to happen with the old system. But this would be obvious.

Though on researching this article, I was surprised to read that Waitrose still offers this under the brand “Quick Check”. And even Tesco are rolling this out again as an improvement.

To be honest, I’m not convinced that supermarkets will switch to an entirely self-scan solution. The growing acceptance of self-checkouts is a driver in that direction, though their perceived unreliability and complexity continues to drive a demand for checkout operatives.

Nonetheless, maybe there are areas where scan-and-go will take off. For example, supermarket kiosks where relatively low value items can be purchased off the shelf. Retailers like WH Smith used to operate ‘honesty’ payment for newspapers some years ago, so given the enhanced security now in operation, perhaps scan-and-go could work in a supermarket environment.

The rise of contactless cards, however, puts a bit of a dampener on the argument that low value transactions will be sped up through scan-and-go. If only there was some way of linking these two concepts

Posh Danish furniture comes to Ancoats (again) – BoConcept store opening 11 September

Update: we had fun checking out the “housewarming event” on a quiet Sunday morning. Some images from across Twitter are below the jump…

After the demise of ILVA in 2008, another Danish furniture chain is taking a crack at the Manchester market.

BoConcept “will offer customised, coordinated and affordable designer furniture to the urban-minded shopper”.

We at Ancoats Tweeps are a simple bunch and we’re not quite sure what that means. But, judging from the website, “a very posh Ikea-style boutique” probably sums it up (the location – MM2 building, Great Ancoats Street – is significantly smaller than the nearest branch of Ikea, in Ashton).

So, if you want a nice piece of flat-pack for your converted mill residence or, like us, just want a free gift and a Danish pastry, head down to their opening weekend. There’s also 20% off if you do decide to buy anything.

Dates: 11-12 September, 10-6 (Sat) 11-5 (Sun).

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Exclusive: Final Polaroid cameras and films at Urban Outfitters, Manchester this Friday

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The very last authentic Polaroid cameras and film will retail from Friday 28 August for the breath-taking sum of £160.

The Manchester Market Street branch of Urban Outfitters only has ten of these in store.

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An absolute collectors piece for use or display, including one pack of ten exposure Type 779 Instant Film.