Recently we heard in the news how a FedEx driver supposedly tossed a box containing a 42-inch flat screen TV over a fence. I can’t help but wonder how the recipient of that poor box felt about the way his/her flat screen TV was handled and how other consumers have reacted to the news.
What does the FedEx ‘box tossing’ have to do with my business? Well, I could just pretend that I have nothing to do with FedEx (I use UPS for most of my shipping needs) and this would be the end of the story. But the very next day, as I glanced over Yahoo News, I remember reading something about a UPS driver’s mishandling of some sort. As I was busy fulfilling my customers’ orders, I didn’t pay much attention, but the names FedEx and UPS stuck to my mind.
In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, stories like these have the potential of going viral and becoming a sore spot for the companies involved. Sure enough, Christmas is not even over, and another news story pops up, this time broadcast by Reuters. It reads, U.S. Shoppers less than merry after online glitches. Ooops, now they are talking about e-commerce and, as an online merchant, I must listen carefully because they could be talking about me.
What struck me most when reading this news story is how shoppers are likely not to forget a company that ruined their Christmas shopping experience. In the words of Patty Edwards, “People have a long memory. And when a retailer ruins Christmas by not delivering little Jimmy’s present on time, they’ve placed themselves on the permanent ‘naughty’ list.” What does this have to do with my business? Everything. And if you are an online retailer, it better have to do with yours too!
No matter how much attention I pay to my Christmas orders and how much I try to avoid last-minute “glitches”, it seems like there always will be some unhappy camper, someone who was not informed of a back-ordered or discontinued item until it’s too late. At a time when a big chunk of Amazon orders are fulfilled by third party companies, this becomes a serious issue indeed. Such is the predicament when we merchants have to rely on suppliers/carriers to get our orders shipped/delivered.
So the question is, how do we avoid those glitches or minimize their unintended consequences? To me, the answer is simple. We never lose sight of the customer in the first place, and we always put ourselves in their shoes. When we make a mistake, we don’t simply take a defensive approach and try to justify. We use more than just empty cliches such as “I understand your frustration blah blah blah…” To quote someone, “we make amends for our shortcomings”. Most customers will appreciate an additional discount or free shipping for a next-day order that was not delivered until 2-3 days later!
Besides apologizing and making amends, we take proactive steps to keep the problems from reoccurring. We train our employees to become more Customer Service oriented and to understand how an apparently harmless data entry error, for example, may have a long-lasting impact on the consumer and by default on our business and the industry as a whole.
The numbers are staggering, as reported by Reuters: “Only six of the 25 largest U.S. Retailers received top marks for online customer service, including website performance, between this year’s November 25 Black Friday and the following Cyber Monday, according to STELLAService.”
I wonder how much explaining FedEx had to do about their employees’ apparent misconduct. The question remains, what does that poor box have to do with my business? The answer is: everything.