It all began with buying a second refrigerator to place in our garage. With supply chain shortages, I thought we were really lucky when we found one that was exactly what we wanted at a large national chain. And it could be delivered in five days.
The night before the delivery, we got a call informing us of a two-hour window for the delivery (2:30 - 4:30 PM). So far, so good!
On the day of delivery, I was in charge because my wife was at a luncheon. At noon, I went for a bike ride and swung by our house at 1:45, purely by coincidence, because that's where I was on my route. Lo and behold, as I drove by, a delivery truck was approaching my house. I stopped, and the driver got out and said I had perfect timing. He was there to deliver my refrigerator. (Based on the rest of my story, I don't want to think about what would have happened if I had not chanced to pass by my house.)
He said he would start by hauling away my old refrigerator. I told him I didn't have a refrigerator to haul away. He displayed mild anger because the authorization number he had for the delivery required a haul-away. He had to call for a new number, which delayed him while he was on hold. He was told to call back when the installation was accepted by the customer, and he would get the acceptance number and the new delivery number. He told the dispatcher he would be done in two minutes and that she should hold on. He left me in charge, saying he didn't want to waste his time on hold again if he had to call back.
I was now the delivery man's assistant. It took them a while to uncrate the refrigerator, so the dispatcher said she had other calls waiting and that I would have to call her back. I told her I was the customer, not the delivery man, and that he had left me with the phone. She then disconnected.
He was angry when he returned and had to waste his time on hold again. He plugged the refrigerator in and asked me to sign the acceptance form so he could call back. I said the door opening was on the right side and that I had ordered it to be on the left. The refrigerator came with a kit for him to reverse the opening. That's when he said, "I get paid by the delivery, not by the hour or for customer service."
I told him to call the dispatcher because I would not accept the delivery as is. Now, he was really angry. He called the dispatcher, and I explained the situation. I now realized she also worked for the delivery company and not the seller. She told me that they do not do on-site work (as opposed to the customer commitment made by the seller); they would have to dispatch another truck to pick up the refrigerator, return it to the warehouse, and make the switch or fix the door at the warehouse. They would then schedule another delivery at some future date, so it would be best if I accepted the refrigerator. I said I would sign for the delivery but not for acceptance of the refrigerator. The driver was fine with that, since he would get paid. Now the dispatcher was angry because apparently she would not get paid until I got a refrigerator I would accept. I told her I would get in contact with customer service.
And, lest I forget, at 2:30 PM, I got a text message that the driver would be arriving at 1:45 PM. I guess their delivery contract required notifying the customer that the truck was on the way!
Customer Service called me before I could call them. They arranged for an on-site door reversal the following day. The next morning, I got a call saying the service person would arrive around 2:00 PM. At 4:15, I called customer service to see if there was a significant delay. I was told the service man (the driver from the previous day) was at my house at 2:00 but I was not home. I informed the customer service representative that I had been home all day and no one came to my door. We rescheduled for the next available appointment, three days later. I insisted on a different person. When the target time was missed on that day, we called customer service again. The representative checked and said the driver had not made any of his deliveries that day; she assumed his truck had broken down. If the driver was not going to come, shouldn't they notify customers, so they don't have to stay at home waiting? We scheduled a fourth day, two weeks down the road because we were going away for a short trip. That day has not yet arrived; I am willing to take your votes (yea or nay) on whether or not that delivery will happen successfully! (In the interim, I am getting my tools ready.)
I wondered, as a cynical New Yorker by birth, Is the driver paid by delivery but not for scheduled service (so he didn't bother coming on the second day and just said he did)? Or did he get paid again for driving by my house, but would get no extra for performing the door service? (Remember, he gets paid per delivery....)
Let's review how many times I was annoyed as a customer: the early arrival (which worked out), the surly driver, my deputization as the driver's telephone rep, the pressure to accept the product as is, the driver's not showing up the following day, the need for me to spend a third day waiting for completion of the delivery, the driver's not showing up the third day, and now my wondering what will happen on the fourth scheduled delivery date.
But, this is not just a customer problem. There is a definite cost to the company in money and time/efficiency incurred by dispatching a second (third? fourth?) truck to my house. There is also a metrics problem. Measure only the number of deliveries, and you get only deliveries. Rework is a significant cost of (poor) quality for many organizations.
Using the Baldrige Excellence Builder® is one way companies can begin addressing issues that will improve operations, customer satisfaction, likelihood to recommend (customer engagement), and therefore business results. Here are a few questions from the Excellence Builder that would help my refrigerator company seller and delivery contractor:
Companies need to think about their incentive systems. Paying strictly by the delivery may not be the most efficient operational metric. Customer time and company time are precious resources. Common sense can conserve both resources and contribute to performance excellence!
The Baldrige Excellence Framework® has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence®, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.
Love the story! We've learned the same thing in health care by paying for the number of visits, not for the quality of care. For decades, we've relied on the professionalism of docs and other providers to make the system work, but with the commercialization of health care, we were losing ground. The switch to value-based purchasing is the result, with the outcome yet to be determined. Get out your tools - I suspect it will be easier than getting that tech out there, and after all, you are a chemist!
I swear that I could have written this column for nearly every appliance delivery and installation we have had. And don't get me started on follow-up customer service! Great one, Harry.
great illustration of how important customer service is!