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The Official Baldrige Blog

It's That Customer Thing Again.....Cool Comfort

Upset delivery man moving a refrigerator looking at the customer holding the phone that says customer service call ended.
Credit: LightField Studios/Shutterstock, Dmitrii_Smirnov/Shutterstock, Gagnar/Shutterstock

The Purchase

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.)

The Delivery

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."

The Rejection

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!

The Fix

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....)

The Analysis

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:

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence Overview consists of the six categories (Organizational Profile, Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Workforce, Operations, and Results).

Category 3: Customers

  • How do you listen to, interact with, and observe customers to obtain actionable information?
  • How do you build and manage customer relationships?
  • How do you manage customer complaints?

Category 4: Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management

  • How do you track data and information on daily operations?

Category 5: Workforce (including suppliers who are seen as workforce members by the customer)

  • How do you foster an organizational culture that is characterized by open communication, high performance, and an engaged workforce?
  • How does your workforce performance management system support high performance?

Category 6: Operations

  • How do you manage your supply network?
  • How do you manage the cost, efficiency, and effectiveness of your operations?

Category 7: Results

  • What are your results for your customer service processes?
  • What are your process effectiveness and efficiency results?
  • What are your customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction results?
  • What are your customer engagement results?
  • What are your financial performance results?

The Moral of the Story

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!

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

Baldrige Excellence Framework

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.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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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!

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