Monday, 10 August 2009

The price of failure with B&Q

On the 31 July I ordered a garden shed online with B&Q. The process was pretty straightforward a bit like ordering something from Amazon. As we've all come to expect efficiency from websites this experience wasn't any great shakes, efficient at best - a bit of a Ronseal moment - the website did exactly what it would have said on its tin if it had one.

The confirmation email came a couple of minutes later. It promised delivery within three weeks (like anyone with a new purchase i'd have preferred it sooner but it was only a shed I couldn't park it on the street to impress my neighbours could I ?). The email said that the store would contact me within three days to arrange delivery. 10 days later (10 August) I rang the number on the email (an 0870 number) to find out why I hadn't heard anything.

I was greeted by the usual menu options, 7 in total, I needed option 3. The phone was answered within thirty seconds. The lady informed me that the shed I wanted would be coming to me directly from the manufacturer (no apology for the fact that i'd had to ring because i'd heard nothing). "Would you like me to speak to them she asked ?", i'll put you on hold. She came back a couple of minutes later informing me that the manufacturer would write to me informing me when it would it be delivered. I expressed my concern, about missing the letter whilst on holiday and the shed turning up. She informed me that it wouldn't be delivered until they'd spoken to me. "was there anything else I could help you with" she asked ? I said no and put the phone down a bit miffed to be honest ! Why had I needed to phone them, their email implies that I would get a call from THEM within three days not the manufacturer ?.

Such a situation is describes a very simple concept but as with anything it's simplicity allows you to see a situation in an entirely new way (what Stephen Covey would describe as a paradigm shift). Failure demand describes a call on the resources of an organisation caused by its own failures. Resources in this case are the people of that company who are deployed to answer customer questions verbally or electronically caused by failings of the organisation.

The phone call i'd made to B&Q was an example of failure demand. Whilst the person was helpful, such phone calls are adding costs to B&Q's business. B&Q has to employ extra people to field questions about things that went wrong or didn't happen at all. I was just one example of failure demand, how much time does B&Q spend on dealing with customer complaints, questions etc all as a result of failure demand ? How much does this cost ? All of these costs should be built into a case for change - and a case for investing more in improving the customer experience but don't take my word for it - so says Colin Shaw too (author of The DNA of Customer Experience).

I now it was only a shed but my experience holds true for any customer interaction with an organisation.