Shipping Error Management – Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Written August 29th, 2010 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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It's not something to be proud of. 

No manufacturer wants to pack and ship a "less than perfect" order.. but they do.   On a daily basis, customers open up their shipments to find parts that are short-shipped, totally missing, defective, or that weren't ordered altogether.  And these shipping errors have very real consequences!

In my case,  a single missing part in a KitchenAid cook-top stove gas conversion kit has delayed the completion of my summer long kitchen remodeling project. 

Over an eight week period, dozens of contractors were orchestrated like a symphony to transform cabinets, floors, sinks, walls, windows, counter tops, lighting fixtures, electrical wiring, plumbing and ventilation.  While the process was disruptive to live through, it was impressive to watch and produced results that my wife and I are pleased with beyond our expectations. 

However, because of that missing pencil eraser sized part, we can't cook in our kitchen, and our General Contractor won't receive his final payment (yet).  Granted, neither of these consequences, as a colleague of mine taught me years ago, is in the same category as planes falling out of the sky or babies dying, but for my wife and I, and our General Contractor, it isn't a happy situation.

I would have loved for KitchenAid to have shipped me everything I needed with the original shipment.  Since they didn't, I would have at least loved for them to remedy the situation quickly and painlessly.  Instead, this is what they put me through:

  • They forced me to phone them.  There is no website where I can orchestrate the process with them.  That meant waiting on hold, listening to that infernal muzak, repeating my phone number, product number, serial number etc…even though they already knew all that about me.
  • They got it wrong…again.  When I finally got through and filed a claim, they did organize an overnight shipment…which was nice.  But they shipped the wrong part…which was infuriating!
  • They think I'm lying to them.  When I rang them up the next day, I spent 40 minutes talking to a short tempered CSR trying to find the right part.  She was looking at a parts explosion diagram and I was looking at the part in my hand.  She insisted that my part didn't exist.  I said I thought it did because I was holding it.
  • They think I'm an idiot.  In the end, probably just to get me off the phone, she said she would ship me the entire burner assembly…part number 30 on her diagram…which probably contained the part I needed.  Then she asked my how I wanted to pay for it.  PAY FOR IT???  Are you kidding me?  She agreed to ship it for free.  It's due to arrive in a couple of days and I have my fingers crossed, but I have my doubts.

My key takeaways for the organization aspiring to become "world class" in handling shipping errors:

  1. The customer is always right.  Make sure that everyone in your organization has totally expunged even the remotest thought that your customer caused the problem. 
  2. Solve the customer's problem…not yours.  Internalize the belief that the job at hand is to resolve the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. That doesn't mean get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible and pass the problem on to the next CSR who is unlucky enough to take his next call.
  3. Start the process on the right foot.  The front end of this process, the part where the customer communicates to the manufacturer what the problem part is and what remedy they are requesting, HAS to be accurate and painless.  If you don't get that right, things will spiral out of control pretty quickly and you may find yourself at the receiving end of a blog post or tweet (or both) :o).

We at b2b2dot0 are currently enhancing our Hosted SAP Integrated B2B Order Management solution to support the accurate and timely communication of shipping errors via our service.  Since we have access to all SoldTo, ShipTo, Orders, Invoices and Shipments information in SAP, I know that we can provide a streamlined web based shipping error reporting process for our clients' customers. I just hope we don't make it too much fun to use 🙂

I feel blessed to have been abused by KitchenAid's shipping error processes in the past week.  I know that we're going to deliver a better product because of it!

Sam

P.S. – for the record, I love KitchenAid's products and pictures of our kitchen are available upon request.