By Daniel Hunter

Spring cleaning is here and for many of us it’s time to get out the paintbrush and carpet cleaner. However, the major UK DIY retailers are not capitalising on the opportunities presented by the internet in improving the customer experience, and might actually be making things worse, according to online customer helpdesk Sirportly.

Sirportly investigated the websites of B&Q, Homebase and Wickes to see what they are doing to help online customers, before inspecting online comments about each retailer made on Google, Facebook and Twitter to determine their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) — a measure of their consumer advocacy online (rated between -100 to 100).

B&Q

What it’s doing: offers a store locator, reserve & collect, free delivery on orders over £50 and a mobile app. The retailer uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to provide customers with home improvement inspiration, help and advice. It also runs two online communities — Social Hub and Streetclub.

How customers feel: B&Q’s NPS score was an alarmingly low -70. Customers had little positive to say about the retailer and were particularly vitriolic about the online buying experience.

What customers say: “Reserved my shopping online to be collected in store. When I got to store the price was 25% more. I was told that is the price you have to pay, even though it was still the original price online which I showed the staff on my phone while in store. I won’t be using the online service again.”

“Tried to reserve and collect - it takes a whole day to pick the goods, the staff call you a liar when you complain you weren't called and then tut at you when you want the offer shown on their website. I suggest only buying in store.”

“Sent four emails and still no reply. Have you ever heard of customer service?”

Homebase

What it’s doing: uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to provide customers with support and advice. Its website offers a store locator, reserve & collect, order tracking and a mobile app to make things easier for customers. It also has advice and inspiration pages with features such as ‘How to’ videos and buying guides.

How customers feel: Homebase’s NPS score was -20. Some customers said the in-store experience was good but the majority of comments suggest the quality of customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

What customers say: “Got my refund, but minus delivery cost. How many phone calls does it take to get a problem sorted? I am still waiting for the £15.00 cheque by the way.”

“When you say 'recognised' for customer service, does that mean your shockingly diabolical customer service because that is all we have experienced and it would appear we are not the only ones!”

“Customer Service - Homebase head office don’t know the meaning.”

Wickes

What it’s doing: uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to advise customers on purchases or anything else they need help with. The retailer’s website aims to enhance the customer experience by offering ‘How to’ videos and step-by-step guides for DIY projects, buying guides, a store locator and its ‘Join the conversation’ online community. It also offers a service that helps customers find a builder or book a design consultant.

How customers feel: Wickes achieved an NPS score of +20. Although there were some positive comments about shopping in-store, customers complained about the online service.

What customers say: “Bought door online, paid extra for Saturday delivery. When we waited in all day on Saturday it didn't arrive we waited until Monday and rang to ask where it was. They rang with a delivery date a few days later. Since then we have had to ring at least five times to ask when the door will come. Grow your own tree and make it yourself, it would be quicker!”

“I can't believe they are still trading! Having given Wickes the benefit of the doubt several times for lack of stock, poor product range, uncompetitive prices and utter incompetence by the adolescent staff, I have vowed never to use them again! The final straw came when I was going to order a jumbo bag of pea gravel and they wanted £25 to deliver it 1.5 miles away!”

“Save yourself a lot of grief and shop anywhere other than Wickes.”

Adam Cooke, founder of Sirportly, said: “DIY retailers have a great opportunity to improve the customer experience both online and in-store using the internet. Instead it seems they’re making things worse by trading online in many cases.

“Much of the bad feeling from customers could be avoided if the retailers just got their customer service teams organised and ready to use a little bit of common sense. Also, there is so much customer feedback available on the internet that retailers should be able to use this to put things right. Ten years ago these businesses would have had to pay thousands of pounds to get anywhere near the level of customer insight now available at the click of a mouse.”

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