Woolworths : Great social presence; terrible delivery

Woolworths : Great social presence; terrible delivery

I am not generally one of those who get up on their soap box and start sprouting negative sentiment until the cows come home. I am also aware that some of my followers and readers of this blog are not fans of “brand trashing” through social channels. But (as there always is) this time I feel that I have been seriously betrayed by a much loved and admired brand in South Africa. Not only that, but there is a major example here – real life – of how brands can damage themselves should they not be adequately prepared.


The story goes like this.

Last week Tuesday I needed to get a R 100 Christmas present for a friend of mine as we were having a get together Christmas party on Saturday evening. I started scouring the internet to look for ideas and the thought struck me to try Woolworths. I had seen their offline ads about their shopping portal and how super simple it was to use. I had also seen the Woolworths SA twitter profile @Woolworths_SA making a lot of noise. So I gave it a shot.

I went online and looked around at the men’s section. I browsed until I was blue in the face and eventually found something that I thought my friend would like. He likes hats; so I found him a hat!

I hit the equivalent of “add to cart”; filled in my delivery address and selected my method of payment. I indicated my delivery time for Saturday morning between 10:00 and 13:00. It was smooth; it was almost nirvana! I proudly sat back thinking, “wow, when online shops like this work, it makes it so much easier – I will be back to do this again!”

I went and spoke to a colleague who was also looking for something and told her to go and order from Woolworths – which she did!

Shattered dreams!

Now the reason why I included the screenshot of the product I was going to buy; and please note that this screenshot was taken on the morning of writing this article, not 4 days prior – when the following transpired.

Friday afternoon at about 16:20; I was sitting in traffic when my cellphone rings with an unknown number. I hesitate before I answer thinking it is going to be someone selling me another cellphone contract; nevertheless I answer.

The gent on the other end of the phone proudly announces that he is calling me from Woolworths EASTGATE (my first suspicion something is about to go wrong). I miss his name as he mumbles it out before plunging in to tell me that the item I ordered from the store is not in stock.He continues to tell me that they cannot source another cap for me as there will be no time to do this before my requested delivery time. My blissful Woolworths dream is about to come crashing down.

After further interrogation; I tell him to cancel my order as if Woolworths cannot supply what I ordered; then I do not wish to proceed with anything further. After a few uhms, he says that he will get the call center to call me and officially cancel my order; after which he promptly puts the phone down (without saying good bye).

Being a proponent on online and social media; I decided to Tweet Woolworths to alert them of my dissatisfaction.

 To date I have not heard anything from them in response to this Tweet.

The plot thickens.

I didn’t think terribly much of this until earlier this afternoon. I was speaking to a colleague (the same one who also placed an order last week) and was telling them about my misfortune with my online order. To my shock and horror on Friday afternoon she also received a call and was told that her order could not be fulfilled! Surely this cannot be a coincidence? Two separate orders both getting the same response?

The only difference with her dealings with the call center agent is that she received an email confirming her order cancellation (something I am still waiting for).

I love the quip in brackets about them hoping it was not something that they did! 🙂

What went wrong?

For my money there a few things that have gone wrong here :

  1. The online brand promise is not being fulfilled by offline promises.
  2. There seems to be a supply chain issue if the Eastgate store is calling me about an order when my closest store (which I indicated) is Fourways Mall.
  3. Staff monitoring the Woolworths online social presence are not properly trained in dealing with all their mentions or their monitoring techniques need some revising.
  4. The stock control for their online store is not sufficiently updated in real time with the in store POS (point of sale). (i do realise the complexities here and understand how difficult this point is to get right).
I am not writing this to bludgeon the Woolworths brand. I am writing this because as a company taking their brand to the people, Woolworths understand the importance of giving their brand to the people to govern (or so to speak). I also believe that their internal processes should be sophisticated enough to realise that the learnings from their social efforts need to be applied in to real-time actions in order to ensure that their customers both present and future can celebrate the Woolworths brand!

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