A while back, I started seeing a lot of ads for an online store called Zalora. Its offer of free delivery in Singapore, free return shipping (with direct pickup from your requested address) and promise of a “world class customer service team” sounded quite appealing, so I thought of giving them a try.
As is my usual practice before using any new online business, I googled for reviews, but all I could find were trade articles and a few blogvertorials which obviously couldn’t be trusted. Although this was odd for an online store which had already been open for a few months in a shopping-mad country like Singapore, I figured I’d just give it a try. Short of it being an outright scam (and since I only buy cheap things online, I could afford to make one mistake of being scammed), the worst case scenario would be that if I needed to return an item, customer service would be bad. The flipside, of course, was that if it turned out to be a good and well-run business, I would be able to enjoy a clothes/shoes/accessories shopping experience akin to what people have in the US.
Unfortunately, the worst case scenario is the one that materialized – multiple times. By now, there are several other online accounts of poor customer service from Zalora, so at least a potential customer who does their research will now have some guidance as to whether this is an online business they want to use or not. This blog entry is intended to aid such efforts. I am not, by the way, telling anyone not to patronize Zalora – I am simply setting out my own experiences with them so that you can decide whether or not this is a level of customer service you can personally accept.
Incident #1: First They Lose My Shoes, Then They Lose My Refund
12 Jul: I order a pair of shoes. Website promises delivery within 48 hours.
13 Jul: Receive email confirmation that the item has been dispatched.
19 Jul: 1 week has passed with no delivery made or attempted. I email customer service.
22 Jul: Having received no reply, I email again.
24 Jul: Zalora replies saying my order was put on hold for delivery but they will check with Aramex (the courier they use) and get it delivered ASAP at my preferred timeslot. In the meantime, they give me the tracking number so that I can track it online.
26 Jul: I email Zalora that according to the online tracking system, the status of my item has remained exactly the same since 16 Jul. Zalora replies that they are still waiting to hear from Aramex and will keep me posted.
30 Jul: Zalora gets back to me. Aramex lost the package. They apologize and say they will do a full refund.
24 Sep: Refund hasn’t materialized. I email Zalora. Zalora replies saying they will check when the item was received in their warehouse before they process my refund accordingly. I am bemused as to why they are looking for an item their courier lost, and email them to make sure we are on the same page. Oddly enough, they reply saying the item has indeed been received in their warehouse and I will get the refund in 3-5 working days.
Oct 7: Still no refund. I email Zalora again. Zalora replies saying they have sent my request to the finance team and the refund will be processed within 5-7 working days.
So, let’s sum up Zalora’s various customer service FAILS here:
- Ignoring my first customer support request for at least 3 days.
- Confused service staff who don’t seem to understand the support thread they are handling. (All initial support request emails are assigned a ticket number and subsequent emails are part of a thread which their customer service personnel can check back through.) How can an item their courier lost now be in their warehouse? And why would its presence in their warehouse even be necessary before they can process the refund they already promised me 24 days ago??!
- Utterly and completely dropping the ball on the refund. The refund I was promised on 30 Jul never arrived. The refund I was promised within 3-5 working days of 24 Sep never arrived. And now, on 7 Oct, they ask for yet another 5-7 working days to do the refund. One wonders whether there is electricity and running water in the Zalora office, or if they take the same attitude towards paying their bills.
STATUS: UNRESOLVED (UNTIL THE REFUND ACTUALLY MATERIALIZES), BUT POSSIBLY PROVING THE EXISTENCE OF A TWILIGHT ZONE OF LOST SHOES.
Incident #2: The Return Procedure From Hell
12 Jul: I order a pair of shoes (in a separate order from the order I made in Incident #1).
3 Aug: Having decided to return this pair of shoes, I submit a return request for pickup on 8 Aug. (They have since changed their return procedure to require you to drop the item at a post office, but at that time they were still offering direct pickup of the item to be returned from an address of your request.)
8 Aug: Although Zalora hasn’t responded to my return request at all, I wait at the specified place and timeslot. No one comes.
13 Aug: I email Zalora asking about the status of my return request, saying that the pickup date I requested has come and gone.
15 Aug: Having received no reply to my previous email, I send another.
17 Aug: I email a fresh support request since my previous ones have all been ignored (but also include the ticket number of my previous support request, where I stated the relevant order number and pickup address). Zalora replies asking for the order number and pickup address, and gives me 3 pickup slots to choose from.
18 Aug: I reply giving all the information requested (again) and choosing a timeslot. Zalora replies saying they have arranged the pickup for my requested timeslot of 21 August between 9 am – 1 pm.
21 Aug: *crickets*
22 Aug: I email Zalora that no one came to pick up the item. Although my email is polite, the last sentence is “This is getting very frustrating.”
23 Aug: With great sensitivity to customer service, Zalora replies as follows:
I apologise for the missed pickup again.
We now have a SingPost dropoff at all SingPost post office.
Our return process has never been easier. It’s just a drop-off at the nearest post office at your convenient time for FREE.
Please note that the products must be in original condition, with all tags attached, and must be returned in the original undamaged box and/or packaging
Once your return is received and inspected by our fulfilment centres (usually within 3 – 5 working days of receipt), your refund will be processed and issued through your original method of payment within 7 days.
For orders placed with Cash on Delivery, please provide your name, bank name and account details so we that can refund you through bank transfer once we receive your item by clicking on the link below.
We will send you a shipping label along with 3 receipts for a FREE return. Please print all the copies and drop the items at any of the post office. Please refer to the link below to know the nearest post office.
Please feel free to contact us at 1800-925 6720 for any queries.
For any queries, please don’t hesitate to call our Zalora customer service at 1800 925-6720.
Zalora Singapore Customer Service Officer
24 Aug: I reply as follows:
So basically, having wasted my time waiting for 2 missed pickups, and even more of my time trying to chase Zalora to respond to my support emails, Zalora is now asking me to just go to Singpost and do the return myself.
Your text below says I should receive a shipping label to use for the return shipping, yet you have not sent me any.
Honestly, this is ridiculously bad customer service from Zalora.
24 Aug: Zalora replies:
The shipping labels will be sent to you within 3 days after the submission of the online return form.
For any queries, please don’t hesitate to call our Zalora customer service at 1800 925-6720.
Zalora Singapore Customer Service Officer
30 Aug: I submit the damn online return form.
3 Sep: Having received no shipping label within the 3 days promised, I email Zalora again asking for a reply.
4 Sep: I receive the shipping label.
10 Sep: I return the item at SingPost. Zalora’s FAQ states: “Once your return is received and inspected by our fulfilment centres (usually within 3 – 5 working days of receipt), your refund will be processed and issued through your original method of payment within 7 days.”
30 Sep: No refund has been received. I email Zalora. Zalora replies saying they will look into it and get back to me within 24-48 hours.
7 Oct: Having received no reply long after the 24-48 hours has elapsed, I email again. (Since the original payment was made with Paypal, I of course check my Paypal account first to make sure no refund has been made yet.)
Where do we even begin in cataloguing the FAILS?
- Ignoring my first pickup request.
- Ignoring my followup request.
- Ignoring my next followup request, requiring me to start a fresh support thread.
- Asking for information I already gave in my previous support thread (which I linked to in my fresh support thread).
- Failing at the pickup.
- In response to what is now a customer with good cause to be frustrated, giving a throwaway apology and asking the customer to now follow a whole new return procedure which has “never been easier”. Let’s remember that they’d just asked me to submit yet another online form with all the same information I HAD ALREADY GIVEN THEM TWICE, and then drop an item off at the post office instead of my requested pickup address BECAUSE THEY HAD FAILED TO PICK IT UP TWICE.
- In response to a customer who now clearly voices the reasons for their displeasure, Zalora proffers no further apology and coolly asks the customer to submit the online return form. You know, the one asking for information I already gave them twice.
- Failing to issue shipping labels within the 3 day period promised.
- Failing to issue a refund within the time period promised.
- Failing to respond to my “where is my refund?” support request within the time period promised.
STATUS: UNRESOLVED, AND FUCKED UP IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE
Incident #3: Zalora Erases History And My New Name Is “LEGACY LEGACY”
15 Aug: I discover that all my previous orders (except my most recent one) have disappeared from the My Account section of the Zalora website. I email Zalora giving them the relevant order numbers which have disappeared. Zalora replies saying the orders I mentioned are all still in their system. They ask me to refresh the page or try again tomorrow.
17 Aug: I reply saying the problem is exactly the same.
11 Sep: I happen to discuss Zalora on Twitter.
— Michelle Syntaxfree (@syntaxfreeblog) September 11, 2012
Surprise surprise, Zalora suddenly emails me regarding this support request, asking if I’m still having the same problem! I reply saying the problem is exactly the same. I also give further information of something else I’ve noticed, which is that my most recent shipping confirmation email addresses me as “LEGACY LEGACY” (as in, “Dear LEGACY LEGACY, your order has been dispatched”) whereas previous shipping confirmation emails addressed me by my actual name.
12 Sep: Zalora replies saying they will look into it and need some time.
18 Sep: I email Zalora informing them that even my most recent order has now disappeared from their website.
24 Sep: I email Zalora asking for an update.
Now, you might think this isn’t a big deal because it’s just a technical glitch. But I think it’s worth telling people about because of the following 2 issues:
- Remember the 2 other incidents I described before this one? Each of those related to orders which had completely disappeared on Zalora’s website, but pursuing each service issue has required me to refer extensively to my order details. Thankfully, Zalora’s email confirmations contain some of those details, and I’d kept them. Other details (such as method of payment, because I sometimes use Paypal and sometimes use a credit card) weren’t in the email confirmations, so I had to check Paypal and the credit card accounts I use in order to find out where I should be receiving all those refunds Zalora was failing to send me. So if you order from Zalora, make sure you keep your own records of your transaction history in case they decide you don’t exist any more once you start asking them to keep their promises.
- If an online business can’t even keep proper track of the orders you’ve made, how happy are you to give it your credit card information?
STATUS: UNRESOLVED, ALTHOUGH I ADMIT “LEGACY LEGACY” IS A COOLER NAME THAN WHAT I AM ACTUALLY CALLED
So there you have it. Well, I left out a 4th incident involving yet another failure to issue a timely refund, but since they eventually did follow through after I’d nagged them about it, that’s the only one of the 4 service issues I’ve raised with them that is actually resolved. If you know people who are considering ordering from Zalora, I’d encourage you to share this post with them.
This message has been brought to you by “LEGACY LEGACY”.
UPDATE (15 Oct):
As usual, complaining publicly on the Internet and publicizing those complaints through social media gets you a response far faster than any number of polite private emails. Zalora has now resolved the first 2 of the issues I described above, and assures me it is working on the third. To that extent, I can give them some credit. However, read on to make up your own mind.
Late morning: This post starts getting views from Twitter and Facebook.
6.15 pm: Zalora’s official Twitter account tweets me asking for my email address so that they can urge their customer service to help.
6.45 pm: Jonah from Zalora calls me saying he wants to discuss the service quality issues I have been facing. I am not able to speak with him then and there, but we reschedule for the next morning.
11.00 am: Jonah calls me. He is pleasant and professional, and listens to my numerous criticisms without getting defensive.
Without making excuses for the poor service I have received in the past, he says they have since beefed up customer service. He invites me to try calling their customer service hotline and assures me I will get through to someone. For emails, he says I will get a reply within 24 hours. I point out to him that an email I sent on Sunday night has still not been replied to, so he says he will have to look into that.
He takes down my bank details to do the refund, offers me a voucher to make up for the inconvenience I have gone through, and says that I should loop him in on my future purchases from Zalora and he will personally ensure that they go smoothly.
However, something that confuses me is that he claims his call has nothing to do with my blog post – in fact, that he isn’t even aware of the blog post but will certainly seek it out to read it – but that I am one of a list of customers he has identified as having received unsatisfactory service (based on the email customer service records), and he is calling about 20 customers per day to speak with them firsthand on the issues they’ve faced. (I’ll write a bit more on this point at the end of this update.)
2.45 pm: Jonah emails me. It is a courteous email and satisfactorily follows up on the points we discussed.
7.30 pm: Jonah calls me asking for more details of the “LEGACY LEGACY” issue, which he says he is looking into with his IT team.
4.20 pm: I forward Jonah the “LEGACY LEGACY” shipping confirmation, as requested, and he replies almost immediately asking for one other detail he needs. He also checks that I have received the refund. (My bank records show it was made on 9 Oct.)
* * *
So, I think it’s fair to say that Zalora’s response once I complained on the Internet has been satisfactory – but there’s the rub. I am still not sure how it can be so coincidental that the only two times Zalora has ever made efforts to reach out to me regarding my customer service problems has been when I called them out publicly (see Incident #3 above for the previous time), and yet Jonah says his call was not in response to my blog post. I guess it’s possible Jonah has an ongoing to-call-list which someone else compiles for him, and that person gets a heads-up from the social media team about any particularly unhappy tweets/posts.
The question relevant to every Zalora customer facing a customer service issue is then: what is the best way to ensure you get an adequate customer service response, given Zalora’s poor record at this? It’s only fair for me to refer you to Jonah’s response above regarding the measures they’ve taken to improve their responsiveness, and I’d suggest you give them a 1 call/email opportunity to live up to the service levels that Jonah set out. But if their response to that 1 call/email is unsatisfactory, it’s hard to conclude from my experiences that continuing politely along their standard customer service procedures will get your problem resolved faster than calling them out on the Internet.
One last point – my remaining unresolved issue with Zalora is Issue #3, regarding my epic renaming and the disappearance of my order details. Jonah appears to be looking into it, and I’m okay with giving them a while to get to the bottom of it. However, it doesn’t help answer my previous concern regarding whether you can trust their IT systems to keep your credit card details secure, and I would suggest that if you are careful about stuff like this, consider using their other modes of payment instead.