The leadership breakdown at a large, well-known shipping company

This is Part One of a two-part blog post about my recent shipping ordeal with one of the world’s largest shipping companies.   ups part 1I find it amazing that call centers can be as awful as many of them are when so much is known about how to do them right. Here is the back story:   I am currently on vacation in Mexico and every few evenings I check my email to see if anything significant is going on that needs my attention. While doing this email check, I received a notice from one of the two biggest shipping companies on the planet. I won’t name this company since this isn’t a good story.  The shipping company notified me that two expensive packages were being delivered to me two days from now while I am on vacation.   I don’t want those packages sitting in front of my house while no one is home, so I click the “Change Delivery” button in the email. My plan is to push the delivery back six days until I arrive home. The Change Delivery button brings me to a screen that gives me another Change Deliver button. I proceed to click on the button and the website hangs up. I attempt this process five times with different browsers and by copying the URL. It hangs up every single time.   Next, I check to make sure the problem isn’t with my Internet connection. I visit several other websites, which all load fine. Then, I decide to use the Wi-Fi feature on my cell phone to potentially circumvent problems with my computer. I access the email, go to the correct site, click Change Delivery and then learn that I can only change delivery if I log into the website through Facebook or join the shipper’s membership club.   First, I try logging in through Facebook, which won’t let me because I am in Mexico. I think, “Well, I should just go ahead and set myself up as a member just to change the delivery dates, even though I definitely do NOT want to be a member.”   While building the profile, it asks me for an address and phone number that correspond to the delivery address and phone number. I fill in those fields, and then the site informs me that it will send me a text with an activation code to become a member. The only problem being, the delivery number is a landline that doesn’t accept text messages and I AM IN MEXICO!   So, I give up and use Skype to call the shipper’s customer service number. It’s immediately apparent that I have reached an offshore call center with someone reading from a script. The call taker’s accent is extremely heavy and her response is completely rote.   She asks, “How can I help you?” I respond by telling her that I want to re-schedule delivery for six days later.   She says, “I can’t do that.” What? Really? Is it so hard to push a delivery date back six days, I think to myself.   She proceeds to tell me that they can’t change the delivery date until they have tried to deliver it once. Yes, you got that right—they have to try to deliver a package, even though they know no one is there, before they can change the delivery date.   She explains that I can go into the company’s website and join its club and then change the delivery date. I told her that I didn’t want to join the club and couldn’t get the activation code anyway. So, of course, she offered to text me the activation code.   The customer service agent then tells me that my other option is to change the delivery status to “no deliver.” This means picking it up at their location, which just so happens to be a 20-minute drive from my house and imposes an obvious burden on me to get the package. She goes on to tell me that they will try to deliver the package five consecutive days anyway than keep it in the office.   There are so many customer service breakdowns here that it’s hard to decide where to begin. But here are a few for starters:

  • – A website that doesn’t work
  • – A requirement to join their club just to do something as simple as re-scheduling a delivery
  • – An overly scripted customer service person
  • – And finally, unfriendly business policies and processes
  As many of you may know, the Cerebyte team works with a lot of call centers. So I can say first hand that everything that happened to me is avoidable, but it takes leadership. To be very clear, when there are so many inter-related service breakdowns, it is a leadership problem, not a problem with the people on the phones. The whole system is simply a result of poor leadership in a lot of ways.   There are two ironies here:  
  1. First, we have been talking with this company for several years about a possible leadership program. Its executives have repeatedly decided not to use us because “they have a great leadership development program.” On the contrary, the evidence is quite clear that their leadership is actually terrible. Therefore, the company’s leadership development program is probably terrible as well.
  1. Second, this is a global company that promotes itself as a leader in worldwide logistics management. It sure didn’t handle either the worldwide or logistics part well.
  When I get back home, I will find a manager and yell at him or her for the crappy job the company did, and I probably will get them to deliver the packages to my house. But the fact is, this is a huge company that dominates its market and will most likely never change.]]>

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