Turning great customer service into average

DHL delivery planes trucks and cars
My phone rings at 6.30AM. It’s Louise from DHL, re my complaint about yesterday’s delivery. She wants to confirm we did eventually receive the delivery. I confirm. ‘You’re up early’, she says when she realises she’d failed to check my time zone. ‘I am now’, I reply. I was awake til after 2AM working.

She says the problem occurred because the courier thought the Consulate only had one building, so delivered to that, instead of the one up the road. The correct address was written on the envelope; so was the phone number of the Consulate.

The premium for delivery by 12 noon was $5 Louise says, and offers me a $5 rebate. Total delivery cost was $100.

Let me go back to the pickup. I received a document from DHL and had to get it to Canberra ASAP. Although we had been given wrong information on the phone, the Courier who delivered the document said overnight delivery was actually possible and went out of his way to help. Then I phoned DHL and even though the cash sales office had supposedly closed, the operator tried the office anyway, and a person working back made it happen. Three interactions; all great customer service. When I spoke the next day to advise the delivery problem I made sure they knew those people had been great.

So I was offered $5 back and Louise paused for my reaction. ‘Thanks for that, but this is a silly discount in terms of acknowledging the problem. Your company motto is “fast delivery, no excuses” and there was an impact of the delayed delivery’. Louise offers me a $100 gift voucher and I accept.

This was quite a different experience to being offered a $100 gift voucher up front. I was left with the sense of ‘what can we get away with here’, instead of authentic communication and generosity.

Here’s how it could have gone:

‘Mr Treasure, thanks for trusting DHL with your delivery yesterday but I can confirm that it was not delivered to the correct location and I want to apologise for that on behalf of the company. Did you eventually receive the document?’

– Yes

‘And Mr Treasure I will be offering a full $100 gift voucher refund because we have a “no excuses” policy, but I’m interested to know, if you’ll tell me, what was the impact of the late delivery?

– Well thank you Louise. The impact was that the Consulate did not turn around the document in time. It means that my son and his girlfriend may not receive their marriage documents in time and may have to leave Taiwan unnecessarily. It’s causing a lot of stress and may cost them over a thousand dollars.

‘I’m so sorry we were unable to deliver on our promise. The driver has already been spoken to and I will message him to let him know the consequence. I will also add it to our customer service newsletter so that other drivers hear that story. You’ll have the voucher in a few days; is there anything else you’d like to say to me about what happened?’

– No, I think you’ve covered it off Louise. Can’t undo what happened. Thanks for the voucher; appreciate your taking an interest.

It is not part of DHL’s system, and Louise has not been trained in, getting the impact of the problem in the customer’s world. Building that into their customer service interactions will significantly shift people’s experience of the company, and that’s worth a lot more than the odd $100 gift voucher.