Alternatives to good service

It’s Thursday today. Just a normal day, an ordinary day. One more opportunity to get rich, and one more example of being slammed around by people who never seem to have heard of the concept of ‘customer service’.

It seemed like a simple problem, at first. The post-person arrived this morning, but they were only holding letters, no parcels. We had been expecting a parcel for weeks. My partner is taking part in a sale this coming weekend, and had ordered some paperback books that she wanted to take along and re-sell as part of a health package. The books were ordered two weeks ago, with a promise that delivery would take place in ‘3-5 days’, but when no books arrived, we had to email. We were told that the supplier didn’t have them and had had to outsource the order. Still, they said, delivery wouldn’t have been delayed. The books should have arrived, they said. They would look into it. Next day an email arrived from the outsourcer. It said that ‘an account had to be confirmed’. My partner tried logging on to their website and was refused. She had to phone them.

So far, so bad. Still, don’t forget we’ve only lost a week at this point, and it doesn’t seem fatal: we’ve got another week to go, and as we know, the books could arrive in ‘3-5 days’. So that’s all right, then. It was a nuisance that the newly found supplier was telling us to register and then had established a website which didn’t allow a non-customer to establish an account, but we thought we had cleared that up on the phone. All was going ahead ‘ or so we thought. No books arrived.

It’s Thursday. We tried emailing, but got no reply. We tried phoning the real supplier, the new one, but they said their lines were busy. We went back to the original supplier ‘ pre outsource ‘ and tried them. We couldn’t find a phone number, anywhere. It took half an hour, but there it was at last ‘ no, not on the ‘Contact Us’ page. That would be too easy. Okay, so we phoned and the man checked his computer. He said no order existed. We asked him to check again. He said the records showed that our order had been cancelled the previous week. Right, so the outsourcer had wanted confirmation of the account and, in the meantime, cancelled the order. When he confirmed the account ‘ with us, on the phone ‘ he forgot to re-instate the order. He had an account but no order. He didn’t query or question that. He went on with his life, we went on with ours. The difference is that we were expecting books to arrive. They didn’t. If we hadn’t chased it up, we would never have found out why, either.

The man on the phone was pleasant enough. He asked us if we wanted to make the order again. We asked him when the books would arrive. When he said, ‘4-5 days, after the weekend’, we declined his offer. The books were needed this weekend coming. Not after. Definitely not after. What could he have done? He apologised, which was nice, considering he would probably be thinking that it probably wasn’t his fault. Of course, in reality, it was. He had set up a system that placed orders to outside bodies and his company had no quality control. They didn’t cancel the order, so they probably thought it wasn’t their fault. Why not? Why were they working with a sub-contractor who was so slapdash and careless? Would they follow it up, complain, seek recompense on our behalf? Not a bit of it. It’s life. These things happen. Life goes on. In our case, without the books we wanted.

Well, we didn’t place a second order and we won’t be doing it, not within the foreseeable future. If we can avoid it, we will always avoid that firm in future. A very wise man once said, ‘If you make a client, you should keep them for life and they will keep you’. The alternative to that is, ‘If you lost a client, you never get them back’. That’s certainly true for us. Why? Because there are plenty of other suppliers and, being human, we don’t just want books, we want service. Superlative service. Because, in answer to the question, there isn’t any alternative to good service.

I know what you’re thinking. Look, you say, the guy isn’t going to apologise, rush down to the warehouse, pick out your books and stick them in an envelope, posting them off that very afternoon. Why not? Doesn’t anybody do that? Because I tell you what. The company that does that is the one who gets our business, now and in the future. Everyone else gets a surly customer, chasing an order they think they placed and not understanding the lack of communication. There’s no profit in that. Or, just to make it something you should think about for your customers, doesn’t anyone ‘ any trading company, anyone out there ‘ wonder why people keep phoning them up and complaining? Could it be because you are doing something wrong?