Customer Service: Is it 2008 or 1978? - ClickSoftware

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Customer Service: Is it 2008 or 1978?

November 5, 2008 ClickSoftware 0 Comments

I like this new ClickSoftware blog because it gives us all a great opportunity to highlight and discuss service management related topics. The only problem so far is that it’s all a little tame! So today, I am going to change this and have a good old-fashioned rant about poor customer service!

A while ago, I spontaneously decided to redecorate the living room in my house. Whether it actually needed doing has been a subject of great debate ever since I tore down the first strip of wallpaper, but let’s not go there right now! Several months later with the walls stripped, re-plastered, and painted (OK, these things take a long time in my house, but let’s not go there either) it was time to order some new furniture. A few swift visits to the Internet later, orders placed, delivery dates confirmed, I was feeling smug – everything was so easy, the job was done – well, almost.

But then one thing needed to get involved that had so far been avoided – a reliance on other people. (You could argue that if I had relied on other people in the first place, this ‘project’ wouldn’t have taken so many months to complete but still, I can be ignorant).

Considering the abundance of technology that is available today to all sizes of organizations to make the customer experience less stressful, more efficient, and more reliable it still amazes me how many of these organizations risk jeopardizing their customers’ satisfaction by either not investing, or not deploying effectively.

Here’s what happened next – remember it is now approaching the end of 2008. Let’s take a step back in time.

The original email confirmed my order with a delivery estimate of “three working weeks” time – I knew that because their website had clearly stated this in the ‘Stock Availability’ field next to the items. So, imagine my surprise when two days later, I receive another email saying “Your goods are ready for delivery. Our delivery agents will be in contact with you in a few days time to confirm the delivery date”. Now you may think I should be delighted because they had clearly under-promised and over-delivered. Woo hoo! Until you realize that I wasn’t being totally honest in my introduction. You see, here’s a website telling me that if I place an order today, I will have three weeks to wait so I planned the decorating around this – I haven’t exactly finished the painting yet. In fact I haven’t even finished the undercoat, or even chosen the color of paint, so I needed those three weeks to finish this epic project. With computerized inventory management and tracking systems available at cost effective prices, why are customers still misled so easily?

And then, things get worse.

I receive and confirm my delivery date and to my horror realize it’s an “All Day” appointment. And they work a long day too – “Your delivery will be made anytime between 7am and 7pm”. Oh please, customers have a life too – there’s technology out there that can give me a more precise slot so I don’t have to wait in all day. But at least there’s some good news, “The delivery driver will call you in the morning to provide you with an indication of whether you will receive a morning or afternoon delivery” – well, at least that’s something.

The day of delivery arrives, my phone rings at 7.20am – it’s the delivery man (so the email was accurate about the call). The conversation goes something like this:

Delivery man: “We’ll be there sometime this afternoon”
Me: “Great – when’s afternoon according to your diary?”
Delivery man: “Our afternoon is from 12pm until 7pm” – great a seven hour “window”
Me: “Can’t you be a bit more specific so I can at least plan my day better?”
Delivery man (after some debate with me): “We’ll most likely be there between 4pm and 4.30pm”

Great, a quick telephone call and I now have a thirty-minute delivery window. I can live with that. Who needs technology – apparently they do…

4.20pm, the phone rings “Uh oh, I know who this is” I grimaced.

Delivery depot (notice it’s not the driver!): “I am sorry, the driver isn’t going to get there at all today”
Me: “That’s interesting. Why not? He promised me a 4-4.30pm slot when he called this morning” Delivery depot: “He shouldn’t have said that – he’s run out of hours so he cannot drive any more”
Me: “But he did, and how come he can’t drive any more? He has nearly 3 hours left in his day” Delivery depot: “Well he shouldn’t have said it and he won’t be there today”

And this went on for a while. I was unhappy – there was no chance of a delivery today, tomorrow, the weekend, or on Monday so the next delivery attempt was agreed for the following Tuesday as their “first delivery” of the day. I am one unhappy customer.So what’s my point?

For many years, service management software has been out of reach for smaller organizations and many mid-sized ones too. But in 2008 this is no longer an excuse – scheduling, optimization, inventory management, mobility, real-time tracking, and more is all available as an online software-as-a-service making efficient service management available, inexpensively, to the masses. In this true story I experienced incorrect stock availability, an unacceptable “all-day” appointment, a still unacceptable “afternoon” (seven hour) appointment, an inaccurate commitment from the driver, and a depot who could have notified me far earlier that the delivery was going to fail that day. Technology solves all of this, and it doesn’t need to bankrupt their business either. My experience may have been the norm 30 years ago, but today it is totally unacceptable.

What happened next? The goods surely arrived at 6.41am on Tuesday – damaged…it’s still ongoing.

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