I bought a new pair of shoes last week, a pair of Anatomic Gel slip-ons. The overall process, from first contact with the eventual retailer to delivery, was so outstanding that itâ€™s the type of experience you really want to tell people about.
Iâ€™d seen these particular shoes in the Jones the Bootmaker shop in Reading the week before and tried them on. Oh, what comfort! Soft leather and gel in the soles must all combine to provide such exquisite comfort.
They didnâ€™t have my size, though, and said it would take some weeks to order them. And they wanted the money up front. No thanks.
So I turned to the web and discovered lots of links to places selling this particular brand, which are made in Brazil.
I didnâ€™t know nor have any prior experience with any of the places that showed up in the Google search on â€˜Anatomic Gel shoes,â€™ so I clicked on the first link (non-sponsored) which took me to Walker and Gunnâ€™s listing for these shoes. Even better from my point of view: all at sale prices.
I found the pair I wanted – Â£20 less than at Jones â€“ and decided to order them. What prompted that decision to buy from a company on the web Iâ€™d never heard of let alone bought from before?
A number of things, really, including the various brands they sell, a sense that theyâ€™ve been around a while, the list of credit cards they accept, things like that. Plus they use UPS to deliver. So a feeling of an established business and worth the perceived risk.
That was late on a Sunday evening. I ordered the shoes and got an email almost immediately acknowledging the order. A good start.
Even better on Monday morning: an email to say theyâ€™d shipped the shoes via UPS and included a tracking number at the UPS website in case I wanted to see progress. The email also said the shoes should arrive the next day.
And they did. I savoured the experience in unpacking the box â€“ tell me of anyone who doesn’t savour such an experience! â€“ and the first thing I encountered was a personal letter from Walker and Gunnâ€™s founder.
This impressed me no end. It may well have been a mail merge type of thing with a facsimile signature, not personal at all, but it felt personal.
Combined with all the other elements â€“ email order acknowledgement, notification of delivery, arrival when they said the package would, the care with which the shoes had been packaged â€“ this gave me a distinct feeling of genuine pleasure in doing business with this company.
So if youâ€™re looking for a great pair of very comfortable and nicely-made shoes, thereâ€™s a place on the web you can buy them from that I highly recommend â€“ head on over to Walker and Gunn of Northampton.
As for Jones the Bootmaker, sorry, youâ€™re just too slow. And too expensive. Useful as a try-on place, though.
Coincidentally, I came across an interview in yesterdayâ€™s Telegraph with Mary Portas â€“ known as Mary Queen of Shops among other things â€“ who reckons weâ€™re turning a corner in customer service where excellent service will return to the High Street.
I was especially intrigued to read her view of what the customer experience could be like in 2020, just ten years away:
[â€¦] There’ll be so many brands we haven’t heard of yet, and names like Marks and Spencer partnering up with big technology brands. There will be an enormous amount of wellness shops, too, as well as clothing shops incorporating both social networking and musical/visual performances into their remit. It’s exciting.
I could also see the web simply being a natural extension of such physical retail experiences, far more than it is today.