“I can’t do that” shouldn’t be part of the vocabulary of a multichannel business.

Next tried to deliver a rug to a neighbour who wasn’t in so the delivery driver asked as to take it in. Then the neighbour moved house and never collected the rug. We could have got ourselves a nice new rug for free and that could have been the end of it.

Instead we called Next customer services who couldn’t find any order information and asked us to return the rug to a store. We did so and explained the situation to the shop assistant. The shop assistant asked us to wait while she went off to speak to the manager. After a couple of minutes she came back and suggested that they’d take the rug, hold it in store and contact the customer and refund them if they didn’t collect it. We said that was fine, and could she write a note saying that the rug had been returned so that if the customer came back looking for their rug we had proof that we hadn’t kept it.

She said that she couldn’t do that and that the customer would get a refund and so we could ask them to check their bank statement to see the refund. I explained that that wouldn’t provide us with any proof and that the customer could still choose to claim that we stole their rug regardless of what their bank statement said.

She tried calling Customer Services to get more information but after another ten minutes of waiting I had to have a more forceful chat with her to make the point that we’re doing them a favour by returning the rug and that all we want is for her to write on the delivery note that we’ve returned the rug to the store.

She seemed unable to accept that we wanted some proof that we’d returned it to store. I even offered to take the rug to a different store or explain the situation to the manager if that made it easier for her, and eventually she agreed to do as I asked.

Multichannel channel is a challenge for any business. And most businesses understandably approach it from the system point of view when really a good multichannel channel strategy needs to start with the needs of the customer, and then empower the front line staff to meet those needs effectively. “I can’t do that” shouldn’t be part of the vocabulary of a multichannel business.