So close, yet ultimately... so far: Ikea.
Another story of an issue created (inadvertently) by me, which when presented with an opportunity to perform amazing customer service, the business smashed a big fat own goal.
We live in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. We visit the mainland infrequently. We were recently refurbishing our children’s playroom and given the size of the job and the relatively few local options available to us, and despite it requiring a special visit, we felt that using IKEA to achieve the result would make sense.
We spent a considerable amount of time in the weeks leading up to a visit, using the website to determine what we were going to buy.
I visited IKEA Southampton on 04/04/2023. This included a 3.5h outward ferry crossing on 03/04/2023, two nights in a hotel and a 9h return ferry crossing on 05/04/2023, at a cost of £600 for travel and accommodation.
The visit to the store took almost the entire day with six separate visits to load my vehicle. I filled a large van with more than £2000 worth of furniture and other accessories.
One item we purchased was the HEMNES day bed and the two ĀSVANG foam mattresses. The five separate boxes and mattresses were all grouped together at the end of an aisle in the warehouse collection area. I collected everything from this single pile, assuming it to be the correct items.
On 08/04/2023, back home in Guernsey, I built everything and somewhat miraculously all the furniture was moreorless fine. I built the day bed last, of which the very last step was to unwrap the mattresses and put in the day bed.
At this point I discovered that I had two mattresses of different sizes. The HEMNES requires ĀSVANG mattresses with dimensions of 80x200. I had one mattress of 80x200; however the other had dimensions of 90x190.
This latter mattress does not fit the HEMNES day bed correctly. You can hopefully imagine my frustration. The two mattresses are identical in overall appearance, including the nomenclature, and only a very careful inspection of the label would have revealed the difference in dimensions. The receipt even references the ‘80x’ for the dimensions of the mattress. There was no good reason why this incorrectly sized mattress should have been included in the pile of the correctly sized mattresses that were alongside the components of the HEMNES day bed. It was not unreasonable to expect that two mattresses taken from the same pile would indeed be the same and correct dimensions.
With palpable trepidation, I phoned IKEA customer service helpline, the number as listed on their website, and tried to describe the issue. Although the first person I spoke to was incredibly unhelpful, the second person I spoke to was pleasingly and surprisingly… very, very helpful!
After further explanation, including the fact that I could not simply return to the store to make an exchange (given my location) she immediately understood the problem. She accepted that the fault was with IKEA (the incorrect mattress should never have been in that pile); and she assured me that they would quickly resolve the issue.
My query was allocated a reference number and after some time on hold, I was told that they had spoken to the Southampton store and that they would arrange for a correct mattress to be shipped to me via Parcelforce. It was also their suggestion that I could return the incorrect mattress to the store when we were next on the mainland… at our convenience. We admittedly took this as almost tacit suggestion that they weren’t too bothered about getting it back, which seemed to make sense in the grand scheme of things.
She asked me to allow up to 10 days for the delivery which seemed reasonable which I duly agreed to. The call ended and I was left with a feeling that this customer service response was nothing short of exemplary – a shining light in the otherwise stark horror of normal customer service. “I won’t be writing a blog about this!” I mused.
Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends, and the tale, as expected, begins to go rapidly downhill. By 26/04/2023 there was no sign of the mattress. I called customer services again, and after waiting in the queue and on hold, and despite having the original reference number, had to yet again explain the issue. I am not clear on what had occurred but, fundamentally, the Southampton store had refused to send the correct mattress insisting that the original mattress had to be returned before they were willing to do that.
Southampton had cancelled the request and nobody had been in touch with me to explain.
This call lasted a good 45 minutes, as they spoke again to Southampton, as customer service once again admitted that this was IKEA’s fault, but once again Southampton were not prepared to do anything to rectify the issue.
Customer services told me that they were effectively powerless to do anything about it as they have no control over the stores. They promised to escalate the issue in a different way and that a manager would review and get in touch with me. This did not happen and to date nobody has ever called me back.
I called again on 04/05/2023 to find out what was happening. This is where the response reached a new low. After connecting, and yet again describing the issue, I was placed on hold. After 30 minutes on hold I was cut off. I called again, described the issue again, was placed on hold, and after 20 minutes was cut off, again.
This would appear to be a tactic to dispose of troublesome customers (should it not have been a tactic, then either of those agents could have tried contacting me.)
Having now lost faith in the call centre, I turned to Twitter (@IKEAUKSupport) where I admit that my exasperation started to get the better of me.
The low points of that discussion though were:
- When they said repeatedly that I had to return to the store to make the exchange (despite clear notes as to why this was not practical)
- Advised me to order online (despite the fact they do not deliver here… otherwise I would have just done that originally!)
I asked them if there was any way to take Southampton out of the equation and to arrange the purchase and delivery of a new mattress through customer services / online – there was not. For the record, Parcelforce and a multitude of other couriers do indeed deliver here.
I was at this point resigned to the fact that they were completely unwilling to do anything to rectify the situation, but as luck would have it (for them), a family emergency meant I was forced to come to the UK and this allowed me to make the exchange. Fortunately, the experience of making the exchange was pretty much faultless for which I was grateful and relieved.
So the matter of a £99 mattress out of a £2000+ order for a €40b company that was at fault has been resolved by me - at my expense.
I accept that my location was not within their control; but nevertheless they had an opportunity to deliver a spectacular customer service response and somehow managed to turn it in to an infuriating horror show.
To recap some of their mistakes:
- The original issue was caused by them stacking the wrong items in amongst the correct items
- Admitted fault, and promised to rectify the issue, but then did not keep that promise
- Made other promises (escalations, call-backs) but have never followed through
- Insisted that despite their error, I must return the incorrect item first despite this being logistically infeasible - and despite it being their suggestion that I can return the incorrect item at my convenience
- Made the process of contacting them unnecessarily complicated and time consuming with long periods in a queue or on hold and having to repeatedly describe the issue
- Purposely (I believe) disconnected me from call systems hoping the issue would go away
- Made it my problem the fact that their customer services department and their stores are separate entities and have no power over each other
- Never once varied from standard operation procedure despite this clearly being an exceptional set of circumstances
- Made a reasonably simple issue that should have taken at most a week to resolve into something that has taken more than two months in elapsed time and a not inconsiderable amount of my time
I have no interest in the operational setup of their company. When I speak to customer services it should not be my problem that they are powerless over the Southampton store (especially as they provide no means for me to speak to the Southampton store) and should instead be empowered to actually deliver customer service.
They of course repeatedly invited me to take part in the post customer services feedback, none of which have ever been followed up.
One of the most intriguing questions in that survey is “the extent to which I feel that Ikea represents Scandinavian values.” According to a cursory internet search, it seems these values are pursuing an uncomplicated life, where teamwork, collaboration and treating people fairly and with respect is at the core.
Hmm. Not great.
To go a step further, they publish this webpage: https://www.inter.ikea.com/how-we-do-business/ethics-and-integrity::
The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Every word in this statement gives us inspiration and guidance. We side with the many people and embrace development to make people’s everyday lives better. By always keeping their best interests in mind, we can create positive change for families, communities and societies. The IKEA way of doing business is rooted in the IKEA values and culture. The IKEA values show up in our actions, decisions and behaviours. This behavioural part is the foundation of the way we do business and the way we interact with each other and those around us.
Hmm. Corporate bullshit, is it?
Not the first
Resolved to try and get something constructive out of it, I wanted to get in touch and offer some feedback.
I asked their Twitter support for the ‘complaints and feedback’ email address which they refused to give me given that they are all trained to handle this sort of thing. Nevertheless, it was reasonably easy to find it using CEOEmail : firstname.lastname@example.org. I sent much of the above to that address and received the generic ’thanks for your email, we’ll get back to you in 1 day’ auto response.
Some brief light
Needless to say, they never got back to me. Also on CEOEmail though is the alleged email address for the UK country manager for IKEA.
With nothing left to lose, I sent the same letter to that address.
And it worked. Ish.
Within a day, his ‘Senior Resolution Generalist’, whatever the hell that is, but the fact they need these types should say a lot, responded to me, with the usual sort of trivalities and “we take it all very seriously” etc.
They promised to look into it and make some changes. However given that whilst Googling around to find the contact details, I had already made some rather unexpected discoveries - I am absolutely not the first to experience this sort of customer service. The comments in this article on the Guardian go back years, almost word for word some of the issues I had. And let’s just say that Ikea on Trustpilot is not very positive either.
He did, for some reason, send me a voucher to the value of … £75. But do I expect them to actually do anything about the feedback? inte en jävla chans
Posts in this Series
- So close, yet ultimately... so far: Ikea.
- In hindsight, Nespresso, you did OK
- Garmin - really doesn't care.
- eBay - apology please. I'll wait. Maybe.
- Algorithms Are Shit - Carvana, Amazon
- What is this approach to marketing? Blinds Direct
- If this is the future of challenger finance, maybe it really is time for crypto. Starling Bank
- Why I hate no-reply / unmonitored inboxes: British Airways
- Dear TripAdvisor, your systems have gone rogue