I hope all of you are healthy and coping with the current pandemic in some meaningful way. Many of us are spending the majority of our time at home but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience growth. Many are suffering around the globe but I believe this situation will also help many transition into a life more suited to their true calling. This post really isn’t about that but I wanted to extend a message of hope to those who may be losing hope.
Now let’s get to the topic of customer service or in this case customer disservice and I’ll share what I learned and how it might help us all serve customers more fully. It all started one fateful day in late March. There I was enjoying my Saturday morning doing nothing when I received a strange email from a customer. I had boxed up this customers order the night before and dropped it off at a local shipping center. Luckily ground pickup wouldn’t happen until Monday, more on that in a moment. I then sent the customer FedEx tracking information. He replied on Saturday morning saying he tracked the package only to find the street address was wrong. However the city, state, and zip were correct. The customer thought FedEx may have auto-corrected the address. I swore I entered the address correctly. Of course I had to figure this out. The last thing I want is something I spent a lot of time on and something the customer is expecting to be delivered to Joe nobody. It is important to note this order was going to be shipped the week before but 5 minutes before it went in the box our shop dog decided he saw a chance to escape and damaged the part. This wasn’t a ring. This was a carbon fiber sunroof we built for the customer. Did you know we build carbon fiber parts for race cars? The damage was very slight but it required a complete re-build to really get it right. So the customer was already on edge when he saw this tracking nonsense. This is an important time NOT to screw up.
The first place I called was the shipping center where my wife dropped the package off to confirm what address was on the label. Was I moving so fast I didn’t notice FedEx auto-corrected the address? The woman at the shipping center found the box and read the label to me. I did it correctly! The address was correct. Now I’m really curious. Time to call the mother ship AKA the FedEx “customer service” call center. So I sit through all the automated stuff and finally get a live human since my situation didn’t fit any of their problem scenarios. Shocking, I know! I’m sure the available options are common issues and do help some people but I usually only call if I can’t get info online or odd scenarios like this. One thing many large companies seem to have a very hard time doing is giving answers quickly but that isn’t the reason for this post. Enter G! G is the FedEx representative who “helped” me on 3/28/2020.
G was well trained in the art of customer obfuscation. I gave her the tracking number and she told me where it was going to be delivered. What she told me matched the label but not what the customer and I were seeing online when we tracked the package. When I checked my account shipping history, the shipping label itself, and G they all seemed correct. The issue was both I and the customer saw a different delivery address. Essentially the FedEx.com result was different from their internal database. I have the screenshot to prove it. G was having none of that. I asked her why the systems were giving me conflicting information. That’s where the trouble started. You know when the word “Sir” starts being used with more frequency things are going downhill. She couldn’t answer the question of why the systems didn’t agree. I told her the reason for my call is to avoid having to call back when I have an upset customer who is missing their product. I was trying to avoid a problem for everyone involved. I made this call to look out for my customer. How come G wasn’t looking out for her customer, ME?
20 Minutes In
G continued to parrot the same response each time I pushed for an answer. I even asked her to track it in real time on a web browser which she finally did but she said she could only see the name, city, state, and zip. I hit refresh on my browser and could see the address, and it was WRONG! Out come the sirs again. G said, “I’ve already answered your question and the package is going to the correct destination...” The only thing she left off was to tell me to hang up now. Her tone soured and we weren’t getting anywhere. Here’s the heart of the issue for me and this is what I learned from this interaction/near cellular domestic. It doesn’t matter if you have the answer or not and it doesn’t even matter if you have a full understanding of the issue right now, you can sincerely empathize with the customer NO MATTER WHAT. That might mean turning off the auto pilot for a minute. If you’re stuck in a dystopian call center cube and conditioned to get people off the phone quickly then this might be a difficult ask. Empathy usually isn’t convenient but without it your company is missing out on a key competitive edge. Sitting on the phone on a Saturday while G acts like I’m crazy for 20 minutes wasn’t convenient for me but it had to be done. All G had to do was say “I BELIEVE YOU” and I’ll have someone look into why our system data doesn’t agree before the scheduled delivery date and I will have someone contact you shortly to avoid any problem delivery problems. And then actually do it. That’s not hard is it?
Call the Super
I feel like I kept my cool during the call but I wasn’t going to just go away. My customer hired me to do a job and that’s why I locked my jaws around this issue until I was given an answer. I didn’t cause this issue but that doesn’t really matter. I hired FedEx but could have hired UPS to deliver. It’s on me! In the end I did what my son characterized as “going Karen.” I asked G for a supervisor. After 5 minutes on hold G’s supervisor picked up. I explained the problem to him and he seemed to understand what I was saying. He tracked the package and could not see a street address as I could so he asked me to email a screen shot and said he’d look into it. Now we're getting somewhere! However, he never got back to me. Another lesson to be learned is how important the follow up is for customer service. I know I could improve in this area. Perhaps you can as well. In the end the package was delivered to the right address. I still don’t know why their system info didn’t match. In my mind the reputation of FedEx dropped even lower due to this issue. Reputation is easy to lose and difficult or even impossible to get it back. The stakes are high when it comes to serving customers. Most of the time you might not even be aware when the trust is lost because pissed off customers don’t always reply to surveys. I was given the chance to rate my experience:) They are certainly aware of the customer disservice I received. Nobody from FedEx bothered to call or email and ask why so I’m not sure how helpful the survey is.
If you made it this far I’m impressed! I write this to help other business owners serve their customers more fully. I’m certainly not perfect but I strive for the coveted 5 star rating. And I want to thank G wherever she is for teaching me this important lesson. Perhaps you could teach a Masterclass on Youtube;) I’m kidding. Perhaps someone cut her off in traffic before her shift and I was that driver for her. Perhaps I saved her dog from being kicked when she finished her shift. I really need to be nice because you never know what someone is going through. The person you are rude to might have just spent 30 minutes on a call with FedEx customer disservice. I think in general FedEx is a good company to work with but this experience tells me they might have hired the wrong person for this job. I believe customer service makes or breaks companies. I’ve heard so many stories about companies with a killer product but ridiculous customer service. That’s very sad because good products deserve to be supported well.
Stay Safe out there!
Adam R. Weeks, Ultra