Retailers who care about customers should not use state-run parcel services
Two of my recent online orders have been shipped by state-operated parcel service. What started as a very pleasant experience at retailers' website was ruined by frustration, waste of time and two weeks delay, which could have been easily avoided only if the retailers chose a partner who cared about their customers as much as they do.
I placed the orders to be delivered to my office knowing there is 24/7 reception desk which receives parcels from various services all the time. To my surprise, it turned out to be much more complicated than that. In summary:
- Instead of the deliveries, I received notes, that courier was not able to gain access to the address despite the round-the-clock reception desk.
- When I asked the customer service center why the courier didn't try to call me, I was told they were prohibited from using cellphones to contact recepients, which must be the most mindboggingly stupid rule ever conceived in the history of parcel services considering mobile phone is their most powerful tool in connecting with customer and making sure the parcel is delivered, customer is satisfied and no additional and unnecessary costs associated with further handling of the parcel are incurred.
- My request for re-delivery was initially rejected without any notification to me. When I proactively called to ask about it, I was told I had two hours to pick the first package up before it would be sent to central post office.
- When I asked for the package to be at least held at the post office a bit longer to give me a chance to pick it up, arguing that the office messed up by not notifying me about the re-delivery request rejection, I was told it's not possible either because "there are too many packages in the warehouse" (duh, if you did your job properly, you wouldn't have to store them!)
- It turned out the re-delivery and gaining access to the address was indeed possible since I eventually received both parcels, but only after multiple escalations, a lot of time wasted on the phone raising my voice.
- The most kafkaesque about the whole situation was post office's insistence on calling the couriers "parcel ambassadors" as if giving intelligent human beings fancy titles is more important then empowering them with ability to communicate with the customer. Even the hotline operators struggled to say that title out loud with a straight voice.
The gist of the story is, that great online user experience (which was the case for both these retailers) doesn't matter when it is spoiled at the last mile. Most private parcel services go above and beyond in making sure consumers get their hands on their orders asap. For example more than once when I received a call from a private courier trying to deliver something to my condo when I was not at home and I knew the actual content of the package was very small, I asked the courier to tear it open and throw the content in my mailbox and they would send me a photo of how they are doing it via WhatsApp - I loved it!
The story above is symptomatic. We all know state-run services are mediocre at best and government agencies are almost always self-, not customer-centric. But while with roads or law enforcement we often don't have alternative, the choice of a delivery service is purely in the hands of private, customer-facing retailer representatives. Unfortunately that choice is probably too often merely personal risk-mitigation exercise. As no one ever got fired for choosing IBM, the same probably goes for post service named after the country it is supposedly serving. But if online retailers care about their customers, they must try the most innovative delivery service providers instead of exposing the customers to experience like the one above.