I’m taking a quick diversion from my regular musings on employee entertainment, workplace issues and corporate team building activities in NYC to share a cautionary tale from yesterday, which I think is worth telling to anybody who cares about retaining their clients (i.e. you).

In preparation for our baby expected later this month, my wife and I have been in “nesting mode” – which, I discovered, includes purging one’s apartment of all unused items, to be quickly replaced by freshly-purchased ones.

One of these larger items could only be delivered yesterday, during an expansive 10am-2pm window. As my wife’s still working, I reluctantly took on the task of waiting at home, twiddling my thumbs with hopes that I could get back to work in time for an important meeting. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

2pm rolls around, and alas, no delivery. I call the number, and was told that ”the system was down,” and that they “can’t reach the driver.” I was promised a return call within 5-10 minutes, to provide an update.

customer.service.failAn hour later I still hadn’t heard, and called again – this time I was told that, “the driver is running behind schedule,” and that he wouldn’t be available to deliver “until around or maybe after 5pm.”


Now I’m rightly peeved. I cancelled my scheduled meeting at work – inconveniencing a number of colleagues in the process – and settled in for what I expected would be a very frustrating couple of hours.

I had no idea.

At 5:30pm a truck pulled up outside. Bounding down the stairs to meet the delivery guys, one of them preemptively intercepts my ire with an excuse: “Do you know what time this was available for me to pick up? 3:30pm!” He and his compatriot then trotted up the stairs carrying the object, where upon turning a corner they managed to scratch the bottom on the banister.  “Hey man, you just scratched this thing!” I protested. Upon examining his handiwork, Captain Genius replied, “Yeah, it’s just a little scratch.”

<Forehead Slap>

At the top of the landing, they also managed to take out one of my wife’s lovely potted plant in the hallway -and didn’t even acknowledge it.

bad.client.service.storyOkay…how many customer service errors can you spot in the above story? How about:

  1. Not communicating with the customer to inform them of an expected delay in service, when one is clearly likely
  2. Not returning a customer’s phone call promptly, within the promised timeframe
  3. Making excuses for inconveniences, rather than owning up to them
  4. Damaging the customer’s property during delivery

Now, since I don’t like ending blog posts on a negative note, how might this company have treated their customer better?

  1. By promptly alerting the customer to an expected delay in service, with a realistic revised timeframe for expected delivery
  2. By promptly returning the customer’s inquiry as to delivery status
  3. By apologizing and taking responsibility for the delay, rather than blaming “the system”

I think “don’t damage the customer’s property” speaks for itself.

Hopefully, some good will have come of this experience, in that you will be extra vigilant to ensure that YOUR customers aren’t treated in a similar fashion!