Last year I discovered a few new beauty gems, but not that many (I do have very high standards). I tried lots of items and some were meh, and others were just dreadful that I used them once and had to give them away. More than ever customer service is important for branding, whether it’s a cosmetics house or an online retailer. Neither can afford to get a bad reputation and for it go viral on social media.
So which companies have done well, who could do better, and which need to retrain staff? This also applies to marketing and PR branches of a company, because they are the ones who create a first impression of how well a company is run. Often from a business perspective it can be a make or break situation from the first interaction and how it is handled. These are the products that have impressed; none were freebies, and were chosen on gut instinct. Read up on what I recommend, and which companies can and need to do better…
Best Beauty Discovery
Bloomtown Botanicals Sugar Scrub ~ I’ve sung the praises of this product for w while now, and it really is a wonderful find. A scrub that cleanses and moisturizes without scratching the skin is just fabulous, and as it comes in a range of scents you can’t get bored or trying new ones. Read the full review, and get 20% off with the code AVA20. http://beautysuperspy.com/bloomtown-botanicals-body-sugar-scrub/
Lacura Midnight Power Range ~ This is one of the lesser known Aldi skincare ranges, but is to me the best one. There are two products; an overnight sleep cream, and an eye mask and priced at £3.99 each they really delivered beyond expectation. I blind tested this on a friend who didn’t know the brand as I slipped it in a beauty box of premium brands I gave her, and asked her which she liked, and this was the product she loved the most. Read the full review on the products here. http://beautysuperspy.com/lacura-midnight-power-cream-range/
Evolve Saviour Body Oil ~ Although I’m not a huge fan of body oils because I don’t like the feel of a sticky residue, I was glad to find this oil that absorbs into the skin quickly, leaving the skin soft and firmer and without that sticky feel. It’s excellent on stretch marks and scars, and it’s packed with natural and organic ingredients. http://beautysuperspy.com/evolve-organic-beauty-skin-saviour-body-oil/
Best Skincare Product
DHC Face Wash Powder ~ I used to work for a Japanese skincare company who had a wonderful exfoliating powder, and this is similar to it at a fraction of the price. It uses enzyme action, which means it dissolves away dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, so if there aren’t any there it won’t do anything. This is the opposite of acid exoliators and granular ones that don’t dissolve and can lead to over exfoliating, which can leave the skin sensitive. It creates a rich lather and cleanses gently but deeply on a daily basis, and is so handy for traveling. http://beautyphilosopher.com/dhc-face-wash-powder-review/
Evolve Hyaluronic Acid Serum 200 ~ I’m rather discerning about my serums, and this one impressed me as soon as I applied it. Once applied, it creates an even and smooth film across the face that hydrates and doesn’t tingle or feel tight. What hyaluronic acid does is plump up the skin and helps to retain the water levels. It’s like a daily liquid beauty treatment to boost the skin, and is ideal as a preventative treatment as well as one to help restore dry or dehydrated skins, help dull skin complexions, or to combat the signs of any fine lines.
Clarins Super Restorative Comfort Mask ~ I tried a sample of this mask, and within minutes I could feel a difference. My skin was instantly smoother and softer and gave my skin a huge boost. The mask is concentrated, and is best used at night to get the maximum benefits. If you’re looking for a quick miracle mask in a tube, this is it. http://beautysuperspy.com/clarins-super-restorative-replenishing-comfort-mask/
Best Customer Service
Customer service is something that these days can make a difference as to whether someone will buy from a company or not, no matter how good a product is or how much discount is offered. These companies went above what was expected of them, and below are the companies that failed to reach a minimum standard expected in the retail market today.
SpaceNK ~ As a friend said, once you shop with them it’s like a different world. The staff in store and online are friendly, helpful, and polite no matter how small the query is. My order arrived and a sample was missing, and of course I know they can run out, but contacted customer services to see how they would handle the situation. I didn’t need the sample, but wanted to see their response time and their service. I received a lovely email later in the day, apologizing for the sample being out of stock and was asked if I would like another sample to try, and mailed me a selection within the next few days. The service was excellent and is something that many other companies could learn from.
Clarins ~ Despite having a few issues with their new distribution system, Clarins still manages to answer emails personally and within 48 hours. My order arrived in a haphazard fashion, with no packing note and samples thrown in among the packing chips, which were also the incorrect ones. I received an apology and was sent the missing samples within 48 hours, which was a lot quicker than it took for my order to arrive. I order directly from Clarins knowing if there are issues they will be dealt with more effectively than other websites.
Pink Parcel ~ Subscription box services tend to fare poorly in terms of customer service except for Pink Parcel (now that You Beauty has gone). The online chat service was quick, and dealt with my billing query immediately without any problems. I’ve also had other readers tell me that any broken items were replaced immediately and without question, even if they had received a complimentary box. Now this is called service, where the customer is treated respectfully and professionally, and where queries are dealt with efficiently.
Disappointing Customer Service/ Company Management
A bad reputation can kill a business, so customer service and how a company communicates with their customers and the public matters. Even in private emails or messages, these can be shared on social media, and often are when a company needs to be exposed. Many companies outsource customer services, and that’s usually for financial reasons if they don’t have an office, and operators are rated on their performance. Last year wasn’t a great year for customer service, and here are the companies that can and must do better.
Do bear in mind I have worked in customer services myself, on beauty counters in London stores, and a large marketing and PR company as a manager, so I know what standards to expect, and phrases that are generally fibs to shut someone up! The golden rule is not to blame the customer and to resolve matters to keep a customer loyal.
FeelUnique ~ Last year the service was excellent, with fast responses where they resolved issues politely and efficiently. This just goes to show that levels of customer service can go down, and it depends on who responds to your query. My most recent query was over an item that I purchased, but when I got it the packaging implied it was a free gift (it said ‘your gift’ in large letters). It took several days before I got a response and I was given unsatisfactory responses that appeared to be copied and pasted, and in the end a team leader said if you don’t want it send it back.
The response was completely unprofessional and FeelUnique need to do a lot better. I also sent in a query regarding the website showing errors, and I got a vague response telling me to clear cookies and see what happens. Again, a poor response and the company really need to raise their standards.
Boots ~ I was actually shocked at the responses I received online from my queries, and that Boots tried to pass everything on at store level. One query was in regards to a Boots product I bought online. It was dreadful (shampoo that didn’t wash my hair), but as it was past the 14 days where I could return it, all they said sorry, and see what they say in store. The response took a week as well, which was really far too long, as queries should be answered within 72 hours as a general rule. There was a time when Boots own label products were good quality and trustworthy, but no longer.
Their main rival Superdrug gives you a guarantee on all their own brand items that they will refund or exchange them without question. This doesn’t apply to Boots, and the quality of their own brand products has declined considerably over the years as well as their service.
Elemis ~ This is a brand I have loved, and I quickly fell out of love when several emails I sent never got a response, and my contact form asking for a press release on a new product was never answered. Other people were getting samples sent using the customer service email so I tried that to see if they ever answer. I did get one reply, but it was heavily copied and pasted, and when I rated the response as poor, I got an email from the operator having a go at me. Sadly, the products are nice, but the customer service, PR and marketing are, I can only use the words useless and rubbish.
Evolve Organic Beauty ~ This is a recent find for me, and the delivery of the goods is superb, and the quality of the items I have tried so far have exceeded my expectations. However, that’s where things end. I contacted them via a message on Instagram to see if they would like to offer a discount code or gift to my readers as I would be doing a few more reviews. I was asked to email this request to someone else, and so I did.
There was no response for 10 days, and no out of office response either, so I forwarded it to the general email for redirection. Again, there was no response and highlighted my disappointment on an Instagram message. Here, I was met with an apology, and asked to resend it. Well, the next day I got a response from the ‘marketing’ department, but it really wasn’t worth it. The response was made up of a sentence and a half that was poorly written, and looked as if about 30 seconds had been spent on it. The gist was ‘send me information to prove that you are worth me even looking at your website’, hardly the kind of attitude you need when you are actually offering to promote a small and up and coming company for nothing. Having worked in a large marketing company, if anyone ever sent an email like the one I received they would have been fired before the end of the day.
Jurlique ~ I contacted this company in regards to a query on a product by email and I never got a response or even an acknowledgment. I then tried a direct message on Facebook, where I got a reply after 3 days. I replied back to it as the answer was unsatisfactory, and they have ignored that message. That was a month ago. It’s not a way to build relations or to gain customer loyalty and has in fact put me off the brand completely. It’s a shame as I like some of the products, but a company that lies and then ignores your messages is not one I wish to give any business to.
Beauty Pie ~ The customer service that I experienced was one of the worst experiences I have ever had. I had a reaction to a product and back then they would not accept any returns at all (even though legally they had to within 14 days). The customer services girl insisted on speaking to me, and after a harrowing 15 minutes of questions, did she finally accept I had a reaction. This was only after I had to stop her telling me all the possible causes of reactions, when I told her I was a skin care expert with 20 years experience and what she was saying was in fact incorrect.
I also contacted them via email to ask for samples of the new skincare range or a code so I could buy them at membership prices. I was told they don’t do promotions or offer any codes. Funny, as I actually had a promotional code to buy the items I was testing. One thing I can’t stand is lies, and people that don’t know what they are talking about, and yes it has put me off the brand completely.
The Body Shop ~ Due to a company buy out and restructure, I’m giving this company the benefit of the doubt, but their customer service is inconsistent as the online and retail stores operate differently. I did get my query resolved, but it took a month of emails where the customer service in store was worse than it was online. Hopefully under new management things will change.
When I get bad customer service it can put me off a brand, because it takes more than good products to make me a loyal customer. I do give companies a second chance, and have done on several occasions, and while some like Birchbox have improved slightly, others like Elemis have remained poor (I have been contacting them through various channels for over a year with one response).
While some companies have fared well in the performance of their products and not in other areas, it doesn’t mean I will stop using their products. Instead, I will look for alternatives, and perhaps give them another chance to see if things have gotten any better. It does however deter me from trying their other products, and with online retailers that have poor customer service, I will look elsewhere as competition is fierce and loyalty can be lost easily even with the lure of discounts.