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Friday, December 09, 2005

Do you want to know the secret of how to severely damage customer confidence and willingness to do business with you?

This is a Cautionary Tale For Customer Service.

For many years my wife ordered books through a company called "The Book People". The people she dealt with were friendly and helpful. The books were great value and delivery was always on time, despite the fact that our house is a bit difficult to find.

One day the company started to use another courier.

The next order was not delivered until I'd been on the phone several times with "The Book People" customer services. The people were still very friendly and helpful but seemed unable to get their new courier to actually deliver the books.

I used The Book People web site to get the consignment number and checked the package at the courier. It had been loaded and off-loaded from their transport quite a few times over the days the order had been at the courier's depot. By this time it was well outside the 3 to 5 business days promised for delivery.

Anyway, after yet more days of delay we eventually got our books.

Damaged. And they were meant to be presents too.

"The Book People" kindly sent out a replacement parcel which arrived exactly when they'd promised.

What Are The Marketing Lessons Here?

1) Had "The Book People" displayed reasonable customer service by sending out a replacement package?
2) Was there more they could have done? For example

a) Ring me before I rang them
b) Find out the books condition and send a replacement before I even got the delivery
c) Send a compensation gift as a thankyou for putting up with inferior service

3) Did the courier show reasonable service? After all The Book People's 'promise' for standard delivery is 3 to 5 business days.

Another Order, Another Non-Delivery

The action now moves to the end of 2005.

On the 21st November my wife put in two more orders (worth about £80). The two parcels were received at the couriers depot in Farnworth, near Bolton, a few miles from where we live on 23rd November. From then until today the parcels were loaded and unloaded 6 times, then suddenly the tracking stops on the 2nd December.

Marketing Is All About Communication

I still ring up every day to find out what's going on and I'm assured that the courier is being talked to. Eventually I find out that the only communication The Book People have with the couriers is by email. With an apparent promise that the couriers return email within 24 hours.

Needless to say when I ring back 25 hours later the Book People have still not received the answer.

By this time I'm feeling a little impatient. I go the Book People's web site to find someone in authority to ring . But can't find anyone. I do find a feedback form which I fill in explaining exactly what I think of the current issues.

Again these books were for presents for Christmas and it's now only two weeks away.

So what is our business and marketing lesson here?

1) The Book People should have allocated someone to look after my query and have a system in place that would direct me to that person
2) The Book People need a phone escalation procedure with the courier company
3) The Book People need to ensure that feedback forms are acted on and replied to, or better still have the MD take the complaints calls
4) The Book People should email me with the current state rather than have me ring them up (on a National Rate number).
5) Any delayed delivery outside the promised time should entail a reasonable book as compensation.
6) Analyse the non-deliveries, in particular where they're not delivered to a certain address several times

Is There Any Excuse For All This?

Let's face it the book business entails a lot of volume. The couriers are rushed off their feet at Christmas and people are often not home which entails redelivery.

But there's no reason why the systems for dealing with the issues can't be properly constructed to help the customer.

And the danger is to The Book People if they ignore this marketing/business lesson. Lack of customer confidence leaves us unwilling to trust our orders to them and drives us to The Book People's competitors. We already order some books through Amazon. Amazon have the ability to take The Book People's market.

I wish The Book People well they're served us reliably until this year. They need to take these marketing lessons and apply them. Better yet they should employ Acorn Service and we'll get them singing again!

How about your customer service? Is it like a well-oiled machine and really delivering service for your customer?

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