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Customer Service Kudon'ts Kudos

Product reliability valuable only IF you can get the product

In the last two months, I’ve experienced shipping mistakes and delays with FedEx, USPS, and UPS. Initially, FedEx never delivered a client check because they never picked up the check from the drop-off box. When the second delivery supposedly was sent with overnight priority, it showed up several days later.

A one-day USPS check delivery likewise didn’t arrive on time. To compound the issue, the shipper had sent it with no signature required. When I checked the tracking, it said “signature required,” then USPS totally expunged the delivery. After the shipper got a full refund, the check showed up a couple days later with no signature required.

This last week, UPS tracking said a shipment from Costco had been delivered. I checked twice. Nothing. When I attempted to get some help from UPS, nothing. To file a claim, there is a required box detailing the delivered item. With nothing delivered, why would I fill this out? Then I tried phone support, and was told by an officious voice recording there would be no live person to help.

So, back to Costco. True to their stellar reputation, they just made arrangements to have another one delivered at no additional charge. I’m awaiting it now. Then, two days ago, I discovered that the original shipment had been delivered to the wrong address. So much for even basic driver competency.

Presuming the second shipment arrives, I will check with Costco to see who eats the cost of the mistake. If it’s UPS, I’m keeping both. If it’s Costco, I will return one. Costco shouldn’t have to pay for UPS screwups.

UPS also screwed up an Amazon delivery a couple months back. Amazon took it off the board as “undeliverable.” Then a couple days later, it mysteriously arrived. Sheesh!

What are key lessons to be learned by shippers given this present state of affairs?

1. Don’t offer what you can’t deliver. As I learned with both FedEx and USPS, “overnight” is no longer a reliable commitment. Either adjust delivery windows to accommodate, or just do it right the first time! Amazon actually has adjusted its delivery windows when needed to give the shipping process additional time. I went from getting most one-and-two-day free Prime deliveries to 4-5 days. Now, it’s shortened again. As long as I know what to expect ahead of time, and then see those expectations fulfilled, it’s okay by me.

2. Provide adequate training and hire qualified people. It seems obvious that the current state of affairs is substantially due to improperly trained and unqualified hires being “hurried into service” to fill a void. Slow down a bit and rethink your hiring policies! It’s better to provide slower service that fills the bill than to create consumer antagonism and frustration because of unmet commitments. Most of us will live if our deliveries are slowed down somewhat. It’s time for expectations to meet realistic challenges. Entitled consumers, accustomed to getting what they want when they want it, will just need to wait a bit.

3. Reinforce delivery performance on mandatory items. Needed medical supplies to fight Covid are far more important than an Instant Pot delivery. It’s time to prioritize what’s truly vital and critical, and let discretionary deliveries take a back seat for awhile.

We’re all in this together. We need to work through it together.

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Great products are part of a great customer experience. Costco has figured this out. In addition to favorable pricing and excellent treatment, Costco has earned a reputation for carrying reputable products. While it’s not a perfect system, more often than not customers can buy products with confidence—figuring that only the crème de la crème will make the Costco cut. Because Costco carries a relatively narrow range of products compared to such mega-retailers as Amazon, they can be highly selective. What happens to product reliability, however, as the range and sheer number of products increase?

Mark Lusky

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