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Third time unlucky for Argos e-commerce failure

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan July 17, 2016
I gave Argos a third chance to impress with its e-commerce skills. More fool me - a totally inept omni-channel experience results.

Oh I should have known better. You know that expression ‘Third time lucky’? Well it doesn’t apply to the Argos e-commerce experience.

Yes, it’s my own silly fault. I’ve been burnt twice by the firm in the past couple of years. There was the omni-channel omni-shambles of trying to get a new dishwasher delivered, then a subsequent purchase of an office chair which resulted in (a) a completely different colored chair being delivered and (b) it being left outside on the pavement rather than being, well, you know, delivered.

So when I needed to buy some bookshelves, I should have known better. But the shelves in question were a good price and exactly the right size and I’d seen a lot of social media praise for Argos’s same day delivery, so I decided to give them another chance.

That was basic error number one. Lesson to self - an omni-shamble never changes its spots.

I placed the order for 2 bookshelves with the ‘same day delivery’ promise on the page as I did so. Then I went to checkout and was suddenly told that delivery would be in four days. This was the point at which I should have bailed out of course, but I didn’t. More fool me.

So I went to confirm the delivery date and suddenly four days had become next day. Three conflicting bits of information in three minutes. Impressive.

All I had to do now was chose a time slot. Now I say, time slot. The only option was between 7am and 8pm. That’s not a slot, that’s more than half a day. And on checking further, it would not be possible for Argos to tell me when during that slot delivery would take place

As I had to be in on the day, it wasn’t a huge inconvenience on this occasion, although given that the likes of online grocery firms can offer one hour delivery windows of your choice and Amazon can tell you to an hour when they’ll be delivering, Argos’ inability to offer anything less than a working day is pathetic and a complete e-commerce fail.

Delivery day

So, come the next day, I get up at 6.30am to walk the dog in case the delivery firm come at 7am.

Oh yes, the delivery firm. For some reason, Argos persists in its use of Yodel. This is the firm voted by consumer website as the worst parcel delivery service two years running, with 58% of users rating their experience of the firm as bad. I'm surprised the percentage is that low.

Anyway, back in the house by 7am and the wait begins.

Then around 9am I get a text message. Good news - your delivery is on its way! Hurrah!!! It will arrive between 12 noon and 8pm!

Huh? You couldn’t have told me this before I got up at 6.30am for a possible 7am delivery? Apparently not.

And that already ridiculous 8pm cut-off point for delivery that was promised, that’s now 9pm, whether that screws up my day even more or not? Apparently yes.

As it turns out, the Yodel van turns up around 2pm and the delivery man brings in a bookshelf. Yes, singular, just the one bookshelf, not the two I’d ordered. The reason, he explains, is that the second has been damaged. Not, he adds, by Yodel, but by Argos itself.

Argos products are very poor, he adds helpfully of his employer’s client. He spends more time sending stuff back to Argos than anything else, it seems.

As I’m signing for the one bookshelf, I ask when I can expect a second. Dunno, he says. Could be next week, could be tomorrow. Oh, and check this bookshelf that has been delivered carefully, 'cos if it’s damaged I’ll need to put it back in the packaging it came in or Yodel won’t take it back.

At this point, something snapped. The will to live drained out of me and I said to Yodel’s brand ambassador that I thought I’d probably be better off just cancelling the whole order with Argos, so could he please just take the one delivered bookshelf away with him and return it to Argos with the damaged one.

No mate, you’ve signed for it now.

Argosian indifference

I head for the Argos website to use its online chat customer service. But there’s no-one there. There’s still no-one there 10 minutes later. Or ten minutes after that. Or half an hour later.

argos chat
So I call the customer service number. I get an automated voice recognition system that finally agrees to put me through to a human being. The phone rings, then cuts off. I repeat the whole process. Same thing happens again. I try for a third time and finally get through to a pleasant lady who listens to my litany of fail.

She seems completely non-plussed and not remotely surprised by anything I say. The bit that seems of most interest to her is the Yodel driver’s comments about how poor Argos is.

I ask her when I might expect a second bookshelf. She promises she can send one the next day. So, I’d need to sit in for another day between 7am and 9pm, I ask.

Oh no, comes the priceless and deadpan reply, it’s Saturday, so Yodel will only deliver up until 6pm.

At which point I cancel the second bookshelf and get my money refunded. Again, the customer services person is completely unbothered. It’s clear this happens a lot, so she’s well-versed in her indifference.

Just to top off a great experience, I assembled the bookshelf the next day, only to spot on completion, that this shelf was indeed damaged as well. The damage is on the underside at the back so it’s not noticeable when placed against the wall, but it’s a defective product nonetheless. Somehow it sums up a shoddy experience all round.

My take

Abysmal customer experience from end-to-end. Argos needs to get its e-commerce operation to work if it’s going to stand a chance of competing in the age of Amazon.

It can start with ditching its poisonous partnership with Yodel, then move on to working on a logistics operation that can compete with the delivery capabilities of the most basic of online grocery stores. It's the big items that it falls down on. Buying a breadmaker and using the Argos Fast Track service worked fine a few months ago, but anything bigger ends in tears.

Third time unlucky for me. There won’t be a fourth.

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