Customer Service Needs to Be a Top Priority
Companies often focus on things that are unique to them, or that they do very well. A company may have new, cutting-edge technology that makes them stand out, or it may have amazing logistics that allow them to have lower prices. The one thing that every company needs to have, regardless of its strategy and core competencies, is excellent customer service. A recent experience reminded me again about how poor customer service leaves a lasting negative impression. The most shocking part of this experience is that it was simple laziness and lack of caring for a customer that resulted in me swearing to never use the company again.
We placed an order for 65 computer locks in July to be able to securely lock new computers in our updated labs. The order of locks arrived in mid-August. However, the keys that were necessary to use the locks were not shipped with them. When I followed up with the company about this, I was told that the keys ship separately for “security purposes” and that I would have them in the next day or two. If I didn’t, I was told to let the company know.
Clearly, this should have been my first hint that the keys were not actually on the way. I checked in with the company again six days later to say that I still did not have the keys. Four days later (now 10 days after the keys should have arrived) I was told that the key order “could not be found.” They went on to tell me that they had resent the keys “earlier this week” and that they should arrive that day or early next week. I checked back in another four days (now two weeks after the keys should have arrived), as I still had not received the keys. I then received an image (that looked like it was from a CRM system) that said the expected delivery date was Aug. 31. On Sept.1, still no keys. I checked in again, this time specifically asking if I could see the tracking information for the keys. On Sept. 6, I got the tracking information and it was clear from that information that the keys had only been shipped the DAY BEFORE (Sept. 5)!
This situation forced us to keep three brand-new computer labs locked during the start of classes because the locks are not usable without keys.
Here are my takeaways from the situation that I hope companies pay attention to. First, I was clearly lied to. The company told me repeatedly that the keys were going to be here “any day” when in fact they had not actually shipped. This could be caused by a couple of issues. One issue is that the salesperson simply did not care to look into the situation. The other is that the salesperson was also given bad information. This leads to my second point. After my third inquiry, rather than just passing along information, this salesperson should have looked into the situation and made it right.
The third point of failure was that the salesperson did not overnight ship the keys, even after discovering the keys had not been shipped two weeks after they were supposed to. The keys were sent regular freight. The salesperson made no effort to solve the problem their customer had.
When buying equipment, most people can deal with issues like missed shipping deadlines, mistakes and stock problems. Our company handles many of these issues every day when we deal with our direct customers, so we understand that these things happen. However, is not acceptable to provide false information. Telling a customer that something would arrive “any day” when in fact it had not been shipped, is disrespectful to your customer, your personal reputation and the reputation of your company.
In addition to the lack of respect, you put your customers in a situation where they need to scramble by lying to them. If I had been told in mid-August that the locks had not shipped, I would have been able to think through alternatives. We have done this many times over the past few years with supply chain and shipping problems, but I was not given that opportunity this time.
I wrote to the salesperson and their supervisor expressing my disappointment with the entire situation. By writing to them, I gave them an opportunity to make things right. In return, I received emails that expressed their sincere apologies that “shipping dates kept slipping.” Clearly, they did not want to address the actual situation, which is that the company gave me false information. The manager wanted to know if some “free inventory” would help resolve the problem, which I perceived to be a weird offer that came across as demeaning. Did they think I was complaining simply to get some free stuff? The simple gesture of sending these overnight with an actual apology for what went wrong would have corrected the entire situation. Perhaps this column would have been a “what a great experience” column, rather than a “poor customer service story.”