On Friday evening’s season finale of the popular CBC show Marketplace, they chose to focus their investigative reporting on Dealfind and the horrendous customer service that has plagued this company. This show on Dealfind and on the overall daily deal/group buying industry has been in the works for some time. I was even contacted by the show’s producers in order to be interviewed for the show itself. Here are some of my thoughts pertaining to what I saw on the episode and on the state of customer service and the deals industry as a whole.
- I believe that whatever negative comments, assumptions, connotations or bad press that came out of this show, well, Dealfind deserves it.
- We receive hundreds of customers comments per week most about customers receiving bad service from the daily deal company or the merchant. The majority of the bad comments, by FAR, are for Dealfind.
- I believe that Teambuy got a raw deal on this CBC Marketplace episode. The fact that Teambuy executives now operate Dealfind has nothing to do with the horrible customer service issues that Dealfind caused in the past. Teambuy is actually trying to fix the mess that they inherited from Dealfind. This should have been way more clear on the episode. Unfortunately it was assumed that Teambuy was at fault. Teambuy actually has one of the better customer service scores in this country when it comes to deal providers.
- CBC Marketplace should have tracked down the co-founders of Dealfind and asked them why and how they operated their business in the way they did. How and why they pocketed millions of dollars themselves while their customer service issues deteriorated and their business continued to lose millions to the point where it had to merge. Both co-founders still own equity in the merged Dealfind/Teambuy company but they have no operational control as far as I know. The boat to question them, as they say, has sailed. Too bad. THAT would have been an entertaining episode instead of seeing Marketplace trying to put Teambuy’s CEO on the spot. Again, he inherited and is trying to fix Dealfind’s mess.
- At this stage, Dealfind investors, Teambuy investors and Teambuy executives and the rest of the Deal providers in the industry are now left with the aftermath of continued negative media attention that hurts their ability to convince merchants to run campaigns and dismays consumers from buying further.
- Any online store that does not take care of its customers, or has lack luster response times, or that does not deliver merchandise to paying customers should be out of business. Period. This is not 1998 and the beginning of the ecommerce business model where some customer service issues can be forgiven. Yes, daily deal sites and small ecommerce stores still operate as if they have no business running an online ecommerce establishment. I am the first person to beat my chest in positivity for this industry, but I am also the first person that will say that businesses that operate like what Dealfind has operated should close down and not be in business. Although I am not privy to plenty of information, in my opinion, they are lucky that they merged with Teambuy.
- Now, is Dealfind the only company that has provided poor service within this industry. Absolutely not. We get plenty of complaints from larger companies like Buytopia, Wagjag, Groupon, Dealticker, Livingdeal, Teamsave/Kijiji Deals, even Teambuy and certainly from almost all of the ones that have closed over the past year. So although Dealfind’s customer service issues are not unique, they are in fact the most prevalent. The goal for any company is not to achieve 0% customer service issues. that is not realistic. The goal is to resolve 100% of customer service issues as quickly as you can. Some executives simply do a better job at taking customer service far more seriously as a business goal.
- One of the most ridiculous issues is telling customers to return something within 7 days if they do not like their purchase event though they have not even received their merchandise within that time.
- The other ridiculous issue is not being able to reach a customer service person on the phone from a company that drives millions of dollars in sales per year. I expect that from a small operation..they simply have no staff. But operating as such from a large entity like Dealfind screams of either incompetence (which they were not) or limiting customer interaction….which leads to horrible service.
- The majority of poor service issues started when Dealfind and the industry as a whole started selling products online, but passed on the responsibility of the sale to a 3rd party site or merchant instead of the deal site being the store of record. This is a recipe for disaster.
- Imagine if flash sales sites operated in this manner…. they would be out of business rather quickly. The fact is, the majority of larger deal sites now are operating very much like Flash sales sites in that they are selling products. The difference is that flash sales sites are the store of record. All products are ordered after the consumer places the initial order, yes, but they are all shipped from the flash sales site and not from some distributor, merchant or overseas wholesaler. Yes, daily deal sites do not want to ship, do not want to take on inventory, do not want the hassle of shipping. Fine. But take care of your customers anyway. Don’t pass the buck.
- Sure, we should give the industry some leeway in order for them to learn how to sell products to consumers, but while they are learning, take your lumps and refund your customers if service sucks or if you cannot even get your customers their product.
- Shipping issues, customer service issues happen..all the time. In fact I am personally having issues with Zazzle and Amazon right now. But I know that these issues will be resolved with some patience. That is the price I pay for buying online and that price is worth it.
- Now, this industry, like most, would not continue to exist if positive reviews far out paced negative ones. The fact is that the majority of consumers are satisfied with these services despite some of the bad press, poor shipping, or questionable customer service issues. Sites like Tuango, Social Shopper, Citylinked, have stellar customer service. They take care of their customers. We have tested almost every deal site across the country worth mentioning and we NEVER had any issues that could not be resolved much the same way if we had issues in buying through Amazon, Walmart, Bestbuy or any other online store.
- So although some daily deal site have had questionable service in the past and some continue to have now, they certainly do not represent the norm for the industry.
- There are thousands of examples and case studies about how merchants benefit from this industry and how consumers benefit from the promotions they receive. Yet, the majority of media attention revolves around the negative and this CBC Marketplace episode certainly does not help. Look for us publishing numerous case studies that show the impact of this industry on retail and consumerism in Canada.
So what do we suggest consumers and/or merchants do:
1. DO NOT BUY again from any daily deal site that provide poor service to you. You would not continue buying from an online store that caused you grief would you? This should not be any different. Daily Deal sites, flash Sales, etc are all ecommerce stores. They skrew you? Skrew them back by not buying from them again.
Merchants: there are plenty of reputable deal sites to work with. If one is giving you a hard time, there are others that are more than willing to be your marketing partner. Shop around or contact us for a list of those we would recommend for you.
2. DO NOT BUY from any online store that does not provide you with customer service contact information. If they do not have a customer routing system, a phone number or another professional and systematic way of working with consumers, then don’t buy from them. A contact form on a web site or just an email is simply not good enough.
3. If you are having issues with any ecommerce store, not just daily deal sites, then contact the consumer protection agency. Forget the Better Business Bureau, they are not a government sanctioned body or a consumer protection agency and do not have any power other than their rating system or online feedback service. Instead, contact consumer protection and lodge a complaint, go on Yelp and provide a review, go on the sites Facebook page and provide a review, Twitter and other social media review sites.
4. Over the upcoming months, look for the emblem on the Deal provider’s site that reads “Official Member of the Canadian Deals Association”. We are putting a program in place where this seal shows the industry that the Dela Provider actually cares about being part of the industry and actually adheres to some minimum requirements. More on this on a later post.
5. If all else fails, contact us at info (at) canadiandealsassociation.com and we will try to help despite our limited resources. Believe me, the last thing any deal site wants is for the industry’s association to start delivering bad press and black listing their service. We have found that 100%, I repeat, 100% of all issues we have ever had either for our staff or other consumers we have helped were resolved completely by the deal sites we were interacting with at the time. There are always exceptions though. But we will do what we can.
6. For Deal Providers: Stop selling dollar store item products on your sites. This lowers the quality of your brand, provides a sub standard experience to consumers and it will deteriorate your brands worth over time. Sell products of higher quality, not of questionable quality.
7. Provide a process of dealing with customer support issues beyond a web form or email.
8. Publish executive profiles on your sites. If you are producing millions of dollars on sales and even if you are doing so operating from your house or 1 room office, then actually showing who the heck operates the business goes a very long way in showing consumers and the industry that you are responsible.
In closing, this industry is still a new one. Based on data we see, we do not anticipate this industry to go away anytime soon. Consumer will continue to demand deals and there will always be brokers to help supply those deals. Remember that this industry is also about ecommerce. If like any other ecommerce store, deal providers cannot provide suitable service, then do not buy from them. This is the ultimate power that consumers have.