Karen Millen, customer service and a lack of joined up thinking


This is a story from a friend of mine, Corinne Stuart, who is the founder of a private members business club called the 450 club and has two locations in Central London.

When we caught up recently she told me a story which I asked her to write up and send to me. The reason I asked her to do that is that it illustrates the lack of joined-up thinking that goes on with many organisations and how they treat their customers.

Corinne’s story:

I have been a loyal Karen Millen customer for years.

In fact, I am a Karen Millen Black customer, one of those high spending women who buys every season. Surely just what every brand wants? Open my wardrobe and it’s stacked high with Karen Millen merchandise. I love the clothes, the bags, the shoes, but no longer.

I’ve unsubscribed to their emails, cut up my store card, even deleted my App. This brand for which I was a walking advertisement has so enraged and upset me that I will never buy anything from them again. Ever.

Why, you may ask. Well, last December 12th I shopped online with Karen Millen. The clothes arrived, I was happy and all was well, or so I thought.

Ten days ago I received what I thought was a scam email demanding payment of £180. I was so suspicious (no logo, no Karen Millen branding on the email) that I emailed Karen Millen directly asking if this was a genuine email.

It now appears that last December there was a problem with their online card processing system and, although, I received an email saying payment had been taken they had failed to take the correct amount from my credit card.

I hadn’t noticed the mistake. It was Christmas and I had received the confirmation of payment and my delivery so why would I?

Four and a half months later they are now sending me curt emails saying I had “kept” the clothes and not paid for them. I felt like they were blaming me for their error and accusing me, in effect, of stealing from them. No one called me personally to apologise.

I told them that this was their mistake and not mine and that four and a half months was an unacceptable delay in discovering their mistake. They refused to acknowledge that it was their mistake and that it was an unacceptable delay.

They offered me no compensation. No voucher to encourage me to shop again. Instead just a series of faceless computer generated emails and a demand for immediate payment which they have now told me they’ve taken from my card.

From start to finish this has been the worst customer service I have ever experienced. I posted a comment to that effect on their Facebook page. Not a word in response. So, LK Bennett here I come. I’ve just bought a lovely top from them and I’m going to an in store event next week armed with my credit cards. So goodbye Karen Millen I won’t miss you.

So, that’s Corinne’s story and I hope that you can feel the raw emotion that pours out of her tale of woe.

It seems to me that the issue orginates in the finance department when they were completing a routine bank or payment reconciliation and spotted the discrepancy.

However, it is what failed to happen that created the situation and the outcome of the story: One disgruntled, vocal and ex-customer.

  1. They failed to recognise that it was their mistake and not hers.
  2. They failed to treat her like a human being.
  3. They failed to understand the importance of Corinne as a valuable long-term customer and part of their Karen Millen Black club

What’s obvious from this is that Finance didn’t have a unified view of the customer and as far as they were concerned they were chasing a debt.

I wonder what Marketing and their Customer Loyalty thinks about that?

Perhaps, they should get out of their silos and figure out how they can create a unified view of their customers, particularly their loyal customers and members, so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

What do you think?

You can check out Corinne’s new private members business club at the 450 club and connect with her on Twitter at @Corinne450Club.

Thanks to Kirsty Andrews for the image.

12 comments On Karen Millen, customer service and a lack of joined up thinking

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  • Hello Adrian
    I remember the song and dance that has been made about the importance, the necessity of putting in place a single customer view. If I am right this started back in the late 1990 and was the basis of CRM – that one enterprise wide CRM system was going to provide that SCV.

    And here we are some 12+ years later and if analyst reports can be trusted then only some 10-15% of the big companies have that SCV in place! That kind of tells you all that you need to know about SCV – how important it really is and the feasibility of it.

    Put differently, I don’t think that the lack of SCV is the issue. What the story shows for me is that Karen Millen, as an organisation, is not customer-centric. It simply does not have in place a context that encourages/ensure that the people in the business treat customers right: they listen, they look through the customers eyes, they walk in her shoes, then they act and act with a certain fellow feeling.

    No amount of SCV is going to put that context in place. Yet that context would call forth a SCV. That to me is the central issue – too many pundits and business folks looking at and placing their faith in the wrong areas.


    • Hi Maz,
      Thanks for adding value and a dimension to the post. I must say that I was giving Karen Millen the benefit of the doubt when it came to their context and culture and that it was Finance that had let them down. I do believe that having a SVC could have helped but you rightly point out that perhaps Finance don’t ‘get it’ and have destroyed a lot of the work of others. That’s a great point, thanks for adding that and extending my thinging.

      Best wishes,

      • “I wonder what Marketing and their Customer Loyalty thinks about that?”

        Having recently suffered at the hands of Karen Millen customer service my opinion is that they are plainly not listening to their customers!

        They are in oure sales mode and once the sale has been made they are not interested.

        I just published this post about them actually as I was so disgusted with them. The comments on their Facebook page will make your toes curl….


        • Hi Caroline,
          Thanks for sharing your story. All I can say is Wow!

          Looks like they have a lot of work to do over there.


          • oh that now happens to me but my story is even worse. they have contacted me to debit my card for the items that I had returned 2 days after the online shopping. first they contacted me 2 month ago (5 month after the order) asked me for a contact number but even did not bother to call me to discuss and now after 2 month they are back again saying so confidently that they are going to charge my card (for the items that I don’t have from them). their intonation is like as if I have stolen something from them and I really hate the way I am being treated. they asked my for the proof of payment in my card while I had told them I have not paid anything for the items which I returend and I am not going to pay at all.
            after this story I am looking into other brands, quite honestly with prices of KM there are lots of other nice brands available it is only that I was very much used to KM and being a big shopper of them but I wont be anymore.
            they are the worst in customer service

          • Thanks for sharing your horror story. Shame on them.

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