Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

What an African Lion & Restoration Hardware Can Teach You About How NOT To Run Your Business

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new desk chair from a Restoration Hardware catalog. Here’s the sales copy that sold me:

1950s French Metal Wire 26" - 32" Stool

Dating to the mid-20th-century, our French metal chair hails from the offices of a Paris museum – a work of modern art in its own right. With a nod to iconic design forms, it has a scooped seat and curved back made from heavy gauge wire grids padded with optional leather-clad cushions, sold separately. Adjustable seat height and lumbar support adapt to each individual. Six ball casters make it as agile as it is comfortable.

Sounds pretty cool right? I thought so – so much so that I even ordered the 1940s French Factory Work Table (writing desk) to go with it. And that’s when the problems started.

Now I happen to love Restoration Hardware – I think the quality of its furniture and sense of design is pretty hard to beat. But its customer experience sure leaves a LOT to be desired.

Here’s what happened next. After placing my order I received a cryptic response email that made me have to pick up the phone and speak to a warm body to make sure my order went through. It apparently had but, unfortunately, both the chair and the leather cushion I had ordered were no longer available (even though their website said they were).

I then got passed around like a hot potato from one rep to the next.

After 45 minutes on the phone I was ready to abandon ship, cancel my order and forget I ever laid eyes on the furniture. I was not a happy camper. However at the last minute my order went through and I was relieved to have survived the ordering ordeal.

That was until the scheduled delivery time for my order. Neither my desk nor my chair showed up. Exasperated I called back. “Sorry but those items should have been delivered. We have a record of them leaving our warehouse.” Well, fat lot of good that does me. Some truck driver somewhere is writing his award winning screen play, likely with his muffin top spilling over his tight blue jeans, plonked on my wire chair.

I was told, “Sorry Ma’am we don’t have any more in stock. They’re on back order and should arrive in about sixty to ninety days.” Sixty to ninety days? Really? I’m guessing someone had to walk back to China or India or wherever the chairs are made for that kind of delay.

I received barely an apology and no offer of free anything – no “Here’s a gift certificate for your troubles,” or “We’ll refund your shipping fee.” None of that.

Now one thing you need to know about Restoration Hardware is how it positions itself in the marketplace.

Here’s the sales copy taken straight from the website: “We operate as a curator of the finest historical design the world has to offer. Our collections of timeless, updated classics and reproductions are presented consistently across our sales channels in sophisticated and unique lifestyle settings that we believe are on par with world-class interior designers.”

It’s no doubt a luxury brand but frankly I’ve had better customer service from a grumpy pre-menopausal counter clerk at the Post Office.

Restoration Hardware has great marketing, and uses powerfully persuasive copywriting coupled with gorgeous imagery. It offers top quality products.

But that’s about where the wheels start coming off. It couldn’t have made it more difficult for me to give them my money. And their customer service stinks.

This business reminds me precisely of the “Situational Awareness” photo from my cousin.

It’s so eager to find the next big opportunity in its business, it has lost sight of the thing that could take the company down: lousy customer experience.

Restoration Hardware isn’t the only business that does this. Most do to varying degrees.

The lesson is this: always looking for bigger, better opportunities to grow your business is great, but never lose sight of what made your business great in the first place.