Based on a true story.
 
The scenario.
 
I order some expensive, fragile items for re-sale. The order goes through and I receive a shipping confirmation. I sell out the entire order. The order arrives in horrible condition because it was not properly packaged. I now have customers waiting for their goods but all I’ve got is a maxed out credit card and a pile of trashed merchandise.
 
I contact the company by email and the “exchange” goes like this:
 
I received my order but the goods were not properly packaged and so arrived in terrible condition. What do I do?
 
“We do our best to pack the orders correctly for shipment.”
 
But this order wasn’t packed correctly and everything arrived damaged.
 
“Sorry about that.”
 
Okay, you’re sorry, but what am I supposed to do?
 
“What was wrong with your order?”
 
As I said before, the goods were not properly packed and arrived badly damaged.
 
“I’ll look into it.”
 
I am attaching pictures of the goods as received. I just want a new order shipped so I can take care of my customers. You can see that the goods were not packed properly.
 
“Normally you would just refuse the delivery and we would issue a credit.”
 
Ok, I’ll refuse acceptance.
 
[Next Day]
 
I gave the shipment back to UPS. I need a replacement order to take care of my customers.
 
“Your order cannot be processed because your credit card is declined.”
 
That’s because you filled it up and have not processed the credit.
 
“You have to speak with Goof in accounting about getting a credit.”
 
Goof, I need you to process a credit so Mossy can process a replacement order.
 
“The paperwork hasn’t come through.”
 
Come through? Through what?
 
“It normally takes two weeks for the paperwork to come through before I can process a credit.”
 
Goof, this is your problem. The goods were improperly shipped. I sent you proof. (Pictures) You can track the return through UPS.
 
“The paperwork hasn’t come through and your credit card is declined.”
 
That’s because you haven’t processed the credit. Can you ship the replacement goods? I will give you a different card number that you can charge if the “paperwork” doesn’t “come through”. I have customers waiting for their goods. I need to know when this will ship.
 
[Days pass]
 
“I have approval to process your order.”
 
I need to know when this order ships so I can inform my customers.
 
[Days pass without answer]
 
“Mossy, has this order shipped? Goof”
 
“Goof, I processed the order. Mossy”
 
IS IT SHIPPED?!
 
“Your order processed but shipping is really busy now”
 
When will it ship?
 
“Can’t promise you anything. Mossy”
 
You can’t? You can’t promise me that you can ship this order within a year? (Chris’s sarcasm borne of frustration)
 
“Your order is processed.”
 
I need these goods for customers. I do not know whether I should use their money to pay off my card and wait for their goods or refund their money.
 
[Days pass]
 
“Your order shipped.”
 
When?
 
[No answer ever received, no tracking number received]
 
***************
 
I’m hoping the goods will arrive in proper order. I’m hoping the credit for the previous fiasco will migrate from Goof’s paperwork to my credit card.
 
What’s bad about all this? It took over a week for me to get the words, “Your order shipped.”
 
Nearly everyone at this particular company is irritated with me.
 
Again, what’s bad about this?
 
The communication. What Goof, Mossy and Imnumb (duh boss) don’t understand is that all the frustration would be avoided if the communication was better. Customers will tolerate your problems. Mine have supported me even though I have not been able to ship their orders. Why?
 
1. I did not blame my supplier. I told them I was having difficulty with my order. Period.
2. I stayed in regular contact so they would not think I ran off with their money.
3. I offered a refund at any time they wanted.
4. I gave realistic expectations of when I expected to be able to ship their orders.
5. I gave clear answers. I said, “I should be able to ship your order within 10 days and I will let you know the moment I know the goods are on the way to me.” (I expected the order to ship to me within 24 hours but did not say that) I did NOT say, “I can’t promise you anything.”
 
That’s Business Astronomy™ 101.
 
This company told me several months ago that they were working to improve their customer service. They aren’t. As usual, they are working on processes. Damn processes. You managers and your damn processes are screwing up a lot of businesses. You people who think if you can make the process better the people won’t matter—even a monkey can do this—are fools.
 
The problem isn’t the process. The problem is the people. If you have the right people, they will fix their own processes.
 
This takes a sea change in the culture of a business. If every big problem gets addressed by appointing some “manager” to fix it, the problems will never be fixed. Sure, bring in some graph nut and he’ll show you how much better things are getting. But ask your customers about how things really are… if you have the guts. They’ll tell you what you can do with your progress graphs.
 
There’s a recession coming. When Oil levels off at $90/bbl. and gas is $5/gal. we’ll see a lot of businesses go under. Better start changing now. It’ll be too late soon.
 
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog