Evans Cycles - disappointing and frustrating online experience

At the end of May this year I decided I wanted a new short sleeve cycling top. Having bought quite a bit from Evans Cycles this summer (my new bike, lock, lights, cover, helmet, jacket, pump, water bottle and cage, gloves, ... and a few odds and ends) I decided to make my next purchase from them.
I scoured their online catalogue and finally settled on a nice looking top.

At the 'Select and Buy' stage it turned out that the size and style I wanted was out of stock. So I popped in my email address for an alert when it came back into stock.

Later the same evening I decided it would be easier to just pre-order the top and have it delivered for a store collection. How wrong I was...
On May 30 I received an email to say "Your product is back in stock".
"Excellent!" I thought, "They'll soon be taking some of that stock and using it to fulfil my order!"
After a few days, nothing had happened. No email to tell my my item was ready to collect from the store. No communication of any sort.

As I'd made an online order, I followed the instructions in the email, and contacted the online-people using the online-form for the online-order:
I haven't heard anything about this order since I placed it. Is there an ETA for this to come into stock and be ready to collect?
I received a prompt reply the next day. While it wasn't good news about my order it was helpful and provided me with options:
I would like to apologise for the delay in receiving your order, I have looked into this and unfortunately this item has been discontinued in the colour and size you requested. I understand this comes as a huge inconvenience for yourself, we can exchange for the large black/white which we do have available or if you wish to refund the order we can also process this for you.

If you could contact us and advise what course of action you would like to take I will be happy to process this, again I would like to apologise for the delay and inconvenience caused.
This looks like it's going to be easy and painless ... great stuff!
Please refund the order. I'll have a look at the site and see what alternatives there are and which I prefer.
Thanks for the speedy response,
Oh wait, no ... silly me!
Please contact the Notting Hill store to cancel the order. Thank you.

(0)207 229 xxxx
What?! This doesn't sound like "I will be happy to process this for you"!
I'm not a big fan of the phone, and I hadn't made my order with the store ... so I didn't understand why they couldn't resolve this for me:
Your previous email said *you* could process the refund. Is this no longer possible?
Another response ... still going reasonably well. This whole thing is weird, but these things happen from time to time:
As this is a store order we are unable to cancel and refund this as we cannot access the account to make any amendments.
I have emailed the store to cancel this on your behalf.
So I waited. These things take time. After waiting from June 11 to June 28 I decided to check on the status of the refund. Oh. Nothing. I sent another email:
I have not yet received any refund back in to my account.
I placed the order through your website, not in-store.
I should not be exposed to the internals of your operation and it should not affect me if you are able to forward orders to your stores but not later able to update or cancel/refund them.
Please escalate this accordingly and deal with the outstanding refund as soon as possible.
Now the 'Contact Team' have forgotten all promises of them resolving their problem and might be getting a little frustrated themselves:
Unfortunately as my colleagues have previously stated, we are not able to refund your order as this was a ship2store order, you will need to contact the store directly, the Notting Hill store number is 0207 229 3253, apologies that this has not been done, but unfortunately this would need to be done by them.
Today's reply made me lose my patience with them. I don't think I was rude, but I hope they get the sense of frustration from my reply:
Quoting Shaheen:
"I would like to apologise for the delay in receiving your order, I have looked into this and unfortunately this item has been discontinued in the colour and size you requested. I understand this comes as a huge inconvenience for yourself, we can exchange for the large black/white which we do have available or if you wish to refund the order we can also process this for you."
I would expect that after being unable to fulfil my order - despite sending me a 'back in stock' email for the product I decided to order online after requesting the update - *and* saying that you could process the refund for me that you would actually make some effort to provide some reasonable level of customer service. 
Why is the onus now on me? 
Why is it that placing an order online leaves me having to phone the store? Why are you unable to do this as the 'entity' I made my order with? 
If there was a problem with the warehouse processing would you also expect me to phone them and speak to your packing team directly? 
Do your stores not trust instructions coming from the contact centre team? 
I'm extremely disappointed with the way this order issue has progressed and I anticipate that after this issue is resolved I'll be taking my money elsewhere next time I want bikes or accessories.

What's the problem?

I'm sure a few people are wondering what my problem is. Why can't I just phone the store?

Pre-paid orders not fulfilled before announcing stock

If you allow customers to pre-order items and take their money you'd bloody well better make sure you don't announce general availability of new stock without having first used as much of that stock to fulfil orders that have been place. And paid for.
If you can't fulfil the paid-for orders don't send an email to people who've only expressed an interest and haven't given you anything more than an email address.

Retailer process flaws shouldn't be the customer's problem

I made my order online. I didn't make my order with the store. It should not be the customers burden to chase a store (by phone - ick!) because you transfer 'authority' for the order prematurely to whats basically a glorified Amazon Locker.

Also, if you haven't even got the stock to send to the store, why are you passing the buck to them? They don't need to know about orders you can't fulfil from your online operation. They definitely shouldn't be responsible for something they never receive.

Breaking promises, no matter how small

Don't let one member of your team say "I'm happy to process the refund for you" if in fact you can't, or the rest of the team aren't willing to.

Not wanting to provide any service

This issue could have been resolved days ago if someone had simply said, "We're going to contact the store on your behalf - apologies for our clunky service, we'll get back to you tomorrow with more information."

If your Contact Team won't talk to your own stores, why should I?

Also, it just gives the impression that you just want to churn through 'issues' as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible. It makes me, the paying customer, feel like you don't really care about me at all.

So, what next?

Well, rather than phone the store, I've decided to blog about my experience. I'd much rather other people knew about my frustrating experience than take the ten minutes to phone the store and resolve the issue more quickly.

I've also mentioned them in a few tweets to test how well their social media deals with unhappy, cantankerous spenders.

I'd really like Evans Cycles to understand why I'm frustrated with them. I'd like them to realise the importance of a good customer experience and why it's more important to get things right when things go wrong.

I've had shopping experiences go wrong in the past, but I've actively recommended retailers in the past because of how well they've handled situations that didn't originally go to plan.

The '3 items' in my basket were sourced and purchased elsewhere. My future purchases are unlikely to be made at Evans Cycles. I'm unlikely to recommend Evans Cycles as a go to place again.

The road bike that I anticipate purchasing, and all the shiny accessories that I also have in my internal wish-list will not be purchased from Evans Cycles. That's probably £1,000 of business that's going elsewhere.

Petty? Maybe, I'm sure people will tell me I'm cutting my nose off to spite my face, but I have no problem finding alternative online sources.

I've already found somewhere else (Bikeworks) for servicing, advice, repairs and ad-hoc bricks'n'mortar purchases.

Yes, I can be a difficult customer, and I may react disproportionately when I snap, but I don't think I was being unreasonable in expecting them to resolve their problem with the least amount of hassle for me. I don't think I was asking much from them.

Now to see what they say next...

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