UPS 2This is Part Two of a two-part blog post about my recent shipping ordeal with one of the world’s largest shipping companies.   I recently wrote a blog about my unsatisfactory experience with a large shipping company and the negative experience continued once I got home. But first, there’s another aspect to my saga that’s important to mention.   We have been doing many transformational leadership programs lately and one of the most interesting and challenging areas to change is operations. The very idea behind good operations is that the organization becomes so efficient at its core functions that there are tremendous economies of scale. However, the emerging problem with this is almost Darwinian, meaning that over-specialization reduces a species’ chance of survival if the environment changes.   We have seen this “Darwinian effect” in many companies with very efficient operations in a limited area; but everything falls apart when something deviates from the company’s narrow abilities. That is what happened here. Resuming my tale…   When I arrived home from my vacation in Mexico, I attempted to call the company and talk to a human being. First, I tried to find a number for its local delivery hub, which is not listed anywhere. Clearly, they don’t want people talking directly to its service employees. Instead, I was routed through to the same lousy call center.   I called the central number again and got a call center operator. I explained my situation and was told, “I can’t do that.” This made me a little annoyed, so I asked to speak with a manager. Inexplicably, the call center rep dropped the call – she hung up on me — and it became quite clear that they just didn’t want to deal with it.   So, I called the central number again. When someone finally answered, I very politely said, “This is an unusual problem, can I speak to a manager?” The employee said “No.” She then forced me to tell her the entire story and proceeded to explain that she couldn’t change the delivery date. She said I should contact the original shipper and have that company change the delivery date.   I told her that this would involve a substantial amount of work and that all I wanted them to do is deliver a package that’s sitting in their local hub and that I wish to speak with a manager. She responded by saying, “I am not allowed to do that.”   “You clearly cannot fix my problem, please let me speak to a manager,” I said, again.   “I am not allowed to bring in a manager,” she said.   “Ok, how about giving me the direct line to the local delivery center so I can deal with them directly?” I asked.   She said, (of course) “I am sorry, I can’t do that, but if you would explain the situation to me maybe I can help.”   We went through the entire saga again and she said, again, “You should call the shipper and have them recall the package. I can’t make this change.”   I responded, “Calling the shipper makes the problem mine, when all I want to do is schedule delivery of a package that’s sitting in your warehouse. So, please let me talk with a manager.”   Finally, I got connected with a manager (who also had an extremely heavy accent) to whom I explained my situation. Her response was that they are only allowed to make one delivery change per package and that they can only change the delivery date after the first delivery attempt.   I said, “Let me understand this correctly, you have to deliver a package knowing already that it can’t be delivered before you can note that the package can’t be delivered and the delivery date can be changed.” The policy is absurd and she knew that it was absurd and thus she started to change her attitude.   “Ok, I will put a note in the system telling them to deliver the package two days from now, but I want you to know that this is a one-time special situation,” she said (as if they were doing me a favor to deliver my package instead of just doing their job).   At last, the delivery day arrived and … of course, no package. In the early afternoon, I clicked on the status button in my original email. Instead of loading in the tracking number, as you would expect from any decent site, it brought me to a login screen for its club, again.   I had to click on the tracking tab and copy and paste the tracking number to look through the status log. The manager had indeed entered the change correctly like we agreed upon.   That I had developed a headache from this whole situation is an understatement, but here is the payoff: Seven hours after she put in the notation, someone else puts in a notation that they had LOST the packages. This notation was on the day I was otherwise supposed to drive to and from their site to pick up the packages. Thank goodness I didn’t drive out there!   I called the customer service number again. This time they escalated to a specialist who said, “This makes no sense and we must open a full investigation. Just for your information, these investigations take seven to 10 business days, so you’re better off calling the original shipper and having them send you a replacement.”   That’s where things stand at this point – no packages, along with an investigation and a shipper who now must make a claim for the lost packages, not to mention 10 days of lost time and a lot of aggravation. I gave up and called the shipper and they are resending the packages. I got the impression that this is not an unusual event.   This is exactly what I mean by over-specialization. As soon as something deviated from a very limited range of options, everyone was helpless.   Ultimately, what we have here is a failure of leadership. The customer service employees have scripts that automatically assume the customer is wrong, including an IT system that limits responsiveness, coupled with a bad attitude throughout the entire organization.   I will get my package … eventually, but I hope to never use them again. So much for their claim of being the experts on logistics.   Let me add a postscript. My son, after reading the first blog, told me about a similar experience with this shipper and he made an insightful observation. He pointed out that I am NOT their customer, the shipper is their customer. I don’t pay them, the shipper pays them. It is quite possible that they are incredibly responsive to the shipper just not to the people receiving the package. It doesn’t seem like a very good business model for any of the parties.]]>

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