I ordered a few things from the Apple Store the other day. The actual buying experience was as dreadful as always, but fulfillment was fast and I was to expect my order to be delivered by UPS a few days later. I usually try to stay away from receiving shipments to my residential home address. The delivery truck typically shows up when you're not at home, and it is a pain to later try to track down the forwarder to get your stuff. But since I was at home on vacation anyway, I made an exception this time.
Carefully tracking the shipment on the UPS web site I suddenly noticed that the delivery was in an exception state; UPS had failed to find my delivery address. This was around five in the afternoon. So I looked up the UPS contact info on the site and gave them a call. Pretty much immediately a human picks up the phone and inquires how he can be of service. No waiting in a long phone queue, no ten-levels deep interactive phone menu of "press one for great deals on shipping", "enter tracking number followed by pound", "enter phone number", and definitely no embarrassingly worthless natural language voice recognition crap that never works and makes you feel like you're a total moron with no communication skills whatsoever. None of that. Just a friendly voice. A friendly voice that asked a couple of questions and promised to contact someone who could help me get the shipment back on track. "If you haven’t heard anything within one hour call us back, we're here until 8 p.m.”
After about ten minutes another person from UPS called and informed me that the driver, a bit embarrassed, had admitted that he had failed to find my house. She asked for directions and told me to expect the shipment to arrive soon. After another twenty minutes or so the UPS man arrived and delivered my packages.
They had me by the human answering the phone. This is what great service looks like. You make it easy to report issues, and when informed about a problem you take responsibility, you own the problem, until it is resolved. You promise to call back, and you call back. You promise to deliver something, and you do deliver. In theory this is very easy. In practice, apparently surprisingly hard.
Great customer service story, eh? Except it really isn't. After all, this is UPS, you'd expect them to be able to read a map. Or if not, they could at least try to call the receiver to get directions, it is a listed number. They really should have been able to deliver the package without any of this. Had they done that everything would have been OK. The service would have worked, I'd have my stuff and think nothing more about it. But now, after this, I sit here writing a blog entry praising UPS.
And herein lies the paradox. A quick and effortless resolution of a problem is actually better received and remembered than a problem that doesn't occur in the first place.
Never underestimate the power of great customer support and outstanding exception handling.
This and more great drawings from http://xkcd.com/