Opinion

Management of angry customers by Missguided is like waving a red rag to a bull

7 min read

15 March 2016

Former deputy editor

Women’s fashion site Missguided crashed on 14 March – a result of a 50 per cent off sale sending customers wild. However, with transactions unavailable, shoppers were left frustrated and the company’s banter-based updates did little to placate customers.

In fact, making light of the situation only enraged buyers further.

We’ve seen the sheer brilliance that companies have demonstrated when customers have been caught in unfortunate circumstances.

Take Adam Greenwood, for example – the young traveller found himself without loo roll during a journey on Virgin Trains, but the rail service turned the situation around with some savvy social media correspondence to prevent #PooGate.

However, Missguided has not showcased any sheer brilliance amid its website crash.

While it isn’t Black Friday for several months and the season hasn’t quite changed yet to promote summer stock, Missguided launched a sneak attack on 14 March with a 50 per cent off sale.

Fashion-hungry customers flocked to the website and overwhelmed it, which resulted in a blackout and a poor user experience delivered to eager shoppers.

One shopper admitted her initial joy of the sale had “gone from excitement to pure rage” while another said “this is driving me mad I haven’t got time for this”. There was also a cry for someone in IT to be sacked.

It’s a huge blow and rather embarrassing for Missguided, which made a big song and dance that the deal was to last for just ten hours – never to be repeated.

The choice of discount code did not go unnoticed either.

A study from internet performance firm Dyn last year found 47 per cent of British consumers are willing to wait just five seconds for a web page to load before moving on to a competitor.

That means rivals such as ASOS and BooHoo will have likely experienced a slight sales uptick during the outage – tweets suggest as much.

The online – and offline – chaos that arrives around frenzied shopping campaigns like Black Friday has made it clear that no company is safe from a website crash, with Tesco, Argos and Currys all on the receiving end of outages at peak buying periods.

Aside from pissing off customers and losing sales, it frankly highlights that these firms are incapable of keeping it together, even though the sales will have been in the strategic diary for some time – or so you would think.

They could learn a thing or two from Bestival. Its head of digital Bruce Hay has recognised the fact the company’s website is “integral to success”, so it’s prepared for all eventualities ahead of expected spikes.

“Through the website, which is managed year round by an in-house team, our festival-goers have access to the latest information, and they need this wherever they are and no matter how many others are online,” said Hay.

“Our adoption of cloud technology, above all, gives us the confidence that when we’re due to make a big announcement, the website will soak up the pressure and the users never notice any degradation in performance.”

Read more on social media disasters:

In fairness to Missguided, accidents happen and they can’t always be avoided, but the way in which problems are handled – delicately would be an idea – will help reduce backlash.

Interesting method Missguided took, however, making light of the outage across Twitter and Facebook, which only angered customers further – especially as many are still experiencing problems despite the deal being extended.

On Facebook, meanwhile, customers made use of the new reactions feature to share their feelings on the site failure – as you may have guessed, many were angry.

One of Missguided’s fans said: “Really would just like the offer extended and a set time its to be extended to provided. Oh and for the site to actually work.”

Sammi Krug, Facebook product manager described reactions as “an opportunity for businesses and publishers to better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook.”

She added: “Page owners will be able to see Reactions to all of their posts on Page insights. Overall, Pages should continue to post things that their audience finds meaningful.”

For Missguided, the feedback should conclude that such a blasé public relations endeavour “will like, never happen ever again”.

Remember the time Alan Sugar foolishly welcomed title suggestions for his book on Twitter? Fingering Apprentices was among the recommendations.