Why Are Some Companies so Good at Bad Experiences?
Or perhaps it's better to ask why some executives find it so hard to look at experiences from the customer's point of view.
Perhaps top business executives have personal concierges, so they've forgotten what it's like to be a customer. Or, maybe they're so focused on cost savings they just don't care. Either way, the fact is that companies allot significant dollars and resources to marketing that aims to acquire and retain customers, only to deliver poor experiences that drive those same customers away.
Consider: My daughter just completed her senior year in high school, which means lots of prom and graduation photos. I used Apple's iPhoto to create a hardcover book of my favorite images from those events and purchased two (one as a gift). This was a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Imagine my dismay when I arrived home on a rainy day to find that the local FedEx driver had left the box in the rain leaning against my storm door. With little extra effort he could have instead put it between the doors. The storm door was ever so slightly ajar, so it clearly wasn't locked. Fortunately, Apple is a customer experience master. The books were safely tucked inside a plastic sleeve inside the box. No water damage to the them.
I know that it's nearly impossible to ensure ideal behavior from thousands of employees. But often these bad behaviors happen because of conflicting goals. In this case it seems that the drivers are under pressure from senior executives to put time efficiency above all else—customer experience be damned.
The problem is that not only did FedEx deliver a poor customer experience as a result of what appears to me as an obsession with speed over quality, it put the reputation of its client (Apple) at risk, as well.
Don't just leave my stuff outside
Which brings me to the logic behind not requiring signatures for packages. This clearly saves companies such as FedEx and UPS time, which means it saves them money. But it costs customers both time and money. Time in tracking down stolen packages and filing claims; and money, because the reality is that companies build loss into their prices.
I just ordered a gift from Amazon, through one of its partners, Backcountry. UPS delivered the package at 7:09 a.m. last Thursday. I left my house for the day at 7 a.m., and returned at 9 p.m. I live in a New York City neighborhood called Astoria. My street is just busy enough that it would be easy to steal a package from my stoop, which is exactly what someone did.
My customer experience of convenience and simplicity quickly deteriorated to one of anger, loss, and inconvenience. I now was responsible, according to Amazon's website, to check all areas around my house for the package to have been tucked away (which I had to do in a downpour; and, no, it wasn't there), track down my neighbors to ask if they were given the package (that took two days; they didn't have it), and then contact Backcountry. Sure, my frustration sounds whiny, but now the gift is late and I have an extensive list of chores, errands, and work I need to do instead of chasing down a stolen package that never would have gone missing if my signature was required for delivery, or if I would have been given the option to pick up the package from a local UPS location.
Fortunately again, the seller made up for the shipper's poor experience. Backcountry quickly responded to my email about the situation, is sending a new item, and explained how I can update my UPS account to always require a signature (but unfortunately, it seems that service isn't available in my area).
But, how about this: Perhaps these companies (and their shipping partners) can set up this incredibly amazing thing called a preference center (gasp!) that customers can use when they first make a purchase. They could actually ask customers if they'd like to risk having a package left at their door without a signature, whether they'd like to sign for the package, or perhaps would prefer to pick up the package at one of their locations or the shipping company's locations. And to top it off: If customers choose one of the latter they get a discount, because now they've eliminated most of the risk of the item being stolen. Plus, how about letting customers choose the delivery company from a pre-selected list? That could even be an area of differentiation.
As the saying goes: The devil is in the details. After two poor delivery experiences in one week, will I hesitate before making my next online purchase, and consider whether there's a better brick-and-mortar option? Yes, absolutely. And when I do decide to make my next online purchase, will I look for a seller who uses USPS over FedEx or UPS, or offers in-store pickup, so I feel more secure about actually receiving my package? Yes, again.
Sure, I'm complaining, but complaints are a gift that show ways that companies can improve their customer experiences, thus inspire loyalty and increase their return on marketing investments. And, believe me, I'm just one vocal customer; there are plenty of other customers having the same poor experiences who are quietly switching vendors without saying a thing.