A let off steam kind of post…
Things go wrong. It happens.
Sometimes it’s someone’s fault, sometimes it’s bad luck or bad planning, and sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any good reason for it.
Things go wrong. It’s how you put them right that matters.
Companies can make things better is by handing the situation promptly, efficiently and politely. An apology for the thing that has gone wrong is nearly always a really good starting point.
I’m a member of a international courier scheme. When I put it like that, it sounds quite nefarious, but it’s really not. It gives me access to addresses in several (or more) countries around the world. I can then buy stuff online in those countries, get them delivered to that local address and from there, they get forwarded to me in Cape Town. It costs a bit to join (a one-off fee) and then you pay a certain amount for each shipment. It still works out cheaper than direct delivery, and it’s via a courier, so it’s trackable and (ahem) more reliable.
I used this system to ship some goods in from the UAE. My Emirates airmiles were about to expire, so I cashed them in online here and got myself a pair of headphones and Mrs 6000 got some cosmetics. They were then shipped to my address in the UAE (just down the road from Emirates), I paid a handsome fee to the courier and then the goods should fly through Johannesbeagle to me in the Mother City.
All was going well. The package from Emirates arrived at my virtual address in Umm Ramool, Dubai on the 18th November. From there, 8 hours later, it went to the courier company’s “Dubai Express Hub” and then was shipped (ironically almost certainly via Emirates) to Johannesburg, where the record says it arrived at 13:20 on 20th November – only about 40 hours after they first got hold of it.
This is impressive. This is how it’s meant to work.
Then there came a long delay in Customs. This happens sometimes, and you can keep nudging the courier, but it’s often out of their control. However, I nudged several times, and then once more forcefully, and suddenly like a plunger in a blocked toilet, a mere 16 days (eish!) after it arrived in Johannesburg, my package was Cleared from Customs:
And lo, there was much celebration and joyfulness and singing and dancing and making of merriment in the streets of Cape Town.
Sadly though, nothing happened after that, despite my repeated phone calls to the Johannesburg office. I was assured, time and again, that they would chase it up and call me back, that it just needed to get to their office and then they would have it in Cape Town the following day. But no-one ever called me back. It still hasn’t reached their office.
It took until today – and my 12th phone call to the courier company regarding this shipment – for someone to tell me that the package had likely never arrived in Joburg. That it was part of a “courier bag” which had gone missing on or around the 19th. That shipments from Dubai “usually take a day” to get here and this one had (already) taken over three weeks. Throughout the previous 11 phone calls though, no-one had bothered (or dared?) to tell me that my package was missing. No-one could be bothered to take responsibility.
Half of me is pissed off at the apparent deceitfulness, the other half is pissed off that no-one is willing to try and make things right. I, as the client, am the one doing all the hard work to sort out the mess caused by something going wrong with something that is very much their bit of our agreement.
But customer service in South Africa is so very poor, and it’s cases like this that are not just an illustration of how bad it is, but also an example of why it can be so bad – because the bar is set so very low. I could be having this problem with any one of 10 other local courier companies as well, or any one of 4 local cellphone companies, or any one of 1 local online shopping companies – not one of them stands out from the crowd.
And precisely because of that, not one of them has to.
I’ve aired my displeasure on Twitter now (my last resort and something I really hate to do), and finally (surprise surprise when you go public) someone has actually called me for the first time. There may even have been a mumbled apology. They’re looking into what’s gone wrong and they are going to update me tomorrow.
Fair enough – I’ll give them that chance.
Only now, it’s not just how they put things right that matters, but how they put not putting things right in the first place right.
I’ll keep you updated.