Bad Experience Salvaged

zm_fdxknks.jpgTomorrow morning, I head to New York City for Blogger Social ’08. A few months ago, I told the organizers, CK and Drew, that I would be happy to help them with some of the duties and was assigned the task of being in charge of event photography. We’re going be capturing images from all of the planned events, but also want have the “Socialites” capture pictures as they travel around the city for the many “meetups” that are being organized. Last week, we decided to print up little posters that feature the Blogger Social badge and give them to all the attendees so they can create some promotional shots around the city (hey, they’re marketers).

On Sunday, I went to my local FedEx-Kinkos and shipped the posters to CK in NYC. They were supposed to arrive on Tuesday according to the clerk at my local store, but they didn’t. Checking the website, I saw that I dropped them off after the Sunday pickup. (Strike 1).

On both Wednesday and Thursday, FedEx failed to deliver the package (recipient not home) even though I had specifically indicated on the shipment that signature was not required. I spoke to a Customer Service Agent on Wednesday evening who even placed a message into their system specifically instructing the driver to leave the package. (Strike 2).

When it Absolutely, Positively Has to Get There?

The posters absolutely, positively had to be there for tomorrow’s first event and I could not risk FedEx not leaving them again tomorrow, so I called the customer service line again to find out what happened and to find some resolution. The Customer Service Agent was pleasant, but unable to reach anyone at the depot to see about sending the package back out today. She did speak to a dispatcher who said it would be sent out again tomorrow. I complained that that would not be acceptable and was escalated to “Kelly”, a FedEx “Customer Advocate”. Kelly was very understanding and asked me to hold while she contacted the depot. When she subsequently connected me with “Cosmo” at the depot and dropped off the call, I assumed that she had already worked out a solution. I was very much surprised when Cosmo asked me how he could help and, after I explained the problem for the third time, was told that there was no one available to deliver the package until tomorrow. So much for having a “Customer Advocate”. (Strike 3, you’re out!).

We’re FedEx-Kinkos, but We’re Really Not

At this point I had no choice but to go to a local printer (UPS Store or Kinkos???) and get the posters reprinted and carry them with me to New York. I had done the originals at home, but I work out of town. To have them redone at a local printer was going to cost some money. Given their total ineptitude, I felt it only fair that Fedex-Kinkos pick up the tab. I called the Customer Service line again and managed to get back in touch with Kelly. She greeted me with “I guess Cosmo was not able to help?” to which I not so calmly affirmed “NO”. I then told kelly that I was going to go to a local FedEx-Kinkos to have the posters reprinted at their expense and I wanted to know how that would be arranged. That’s when Kelly informed me that they had no way to do that because the FedEx organization is separate from the Kinkos organization. It was at this point that I just about lost it. I told Kelly that I could care less about their internal organizational barriers. I shipped the package at a FedEx-Kinkos store and from the customer’s perspective, they were the same organization and needed to solve this problem.

Bridging Barriers

Kelly was then able to establish a conference call with someone from Kinko’s corporate office and I explained the problem once again. This time, Kelly remained on the line while  the Kinko’s person explained that there was no way to credit me for the cost of the posters since they were not originally printed at Kinkos (I don’t think they really understood the problem).  When I said that was unacceptable, she offered that I could take it up with the local store, but that it would be up to the discretion of the local Kinkos manager to reprint the posters at no charge. After some more discussion and insistence, Kelly instructed me to go to the store and then have the manager call her.

At the Huntersville, NC store, I met Adam, the store manager, explained the problem (again) and put him in touch with Kelly.  After a few minutes on the phone, he hung up and went to work printing my posters.

Bad Experience Salvaged, but Still Bad

So FedEx-Kinkos was able to salvage the problem, but only after significant effort on my part. Clearly, they have some significant Customer Experience opportunities:

  1. The don’t have documented processes for dealing with Customer Experience problems like this.
  2. Their operational systems and procedures are ineffective (messages not received or read, customer’s instructions not followed).
  3. They operate as independent companies despite marketing themselves and an integrated organization. Those barriers need to be broken down when the get in the way of delivering a great experience.

6 comments so far

  1. Toad on

    Doug: Sorry we didn’t get to meet at BS08. So little time, so many people.

    But your post hit home because I had a less drastic but still baffling bad customer service experience with FedEx/Kinkos (or, more precisely, their website) in advance of the event.

    I was going to have business cards printed and decided to find the nearest Kinko’s to my office, which is in midtown NYC.

    Only when I got to the combo FedExKinko’s site, it just gave me was a list of every FedEx or Kinko’s branded location in the area. No indication if the location was just a place to drop off my packages or if it was a full-on Kinko’s with copy machines and printing facilities. The only information it gave was whether the facility was staffed or not, along with the hours.

    Completely useless to anyone attempting to access the Kinko’s side of their business, yet very easy to fix.

    My suspicion is they’re still working out details of the merger, but that’s something that should have been addressed at the start.

  2. Doug Meacham on

    Hey Toad, Thanks for the comment. You are probably right, but seems to me that 4 years after a merger, they should have these kinks worked out. Found this:
    which says the strategy was all wrong for the last 4 years. CEO announced a new strategy for Kinkos in January. Of course, my problem was FedEx. Perhaps They have been distracted trying to figure out how to fix the Kinkos merger.

    I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to connect as well. Perhaps there will be another opportunity before BS09!


  3. Paula Thornton on

    So, effectively, the only way to have a good experience is to manage our way through it?

    All said, and for all the similar types of stories I’d written on a personal blog for years, at some level we get what we ‘deserve’. [don’t jump to conclusions too quickly]

    There’s a cost to all of this stuff. There’s a cost to even undo ‘broken’.

    I don’t have the answers and I know that in the end, the only thing we can really influence is our own behaviors…so, my recommendation here is this…as designers, we need to make sure that we’re not guilty of designing stuff that 1) is out of context to the ‘whole’ and 2) hasn’t been designed to accommodate exceptions.

    Maybe by example we can influence the energy of the collective universe — by flipping one quark at a time.

  4. Doug Meacham on

    Paula, Beautifully stated! Understand the big picture and count on the unexpected especially if you are dealing with people.


  5. […] to “vent” about their customer care frustrations. Readers of this blog know that I occasionally “vent” here and so do many others that I follow. Michael Arrington’s recent […]

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