Getting a package delivered through the mail is always an exciting moment, whether you are receiving a surprise gift or an order that you placed. The anticipation to receive it builds as you track the package’s progress from its origination point to your door. Seeing its progress and eventual delivery can add sparkle to your day.
But what happens if something goes wrong with this experience? The shipping experience doesn’t include only the company giving the package to a shipping company and the customer receiving the package. It includes customers anticipating reception by watching the package travel across the country through a status app and culminates with the customer gathering the package, opening the box, unwrapping the item, setting up the product, and then, finally, the customer having the product experience. If something goes wrong anywhere along this process, a customer could possibly change his or her perception about the company he or she purchased from or the product purchased. The shipping experience is less dramatic than purchasing from a store and taking a product home with the various wrappings and bags. However, companies should give it more emphasis because it is the only a physical touchpoint the customer has with the online store and the product. It may be obvious, but we sometimes forget that there is no physical store experience with an online store; the shipping experience becomes that only direct, tangible touchpoint, so how the item is received makes a difference. It matters. The experience opening the package with the box and wrapping papers and the return experience all matter. This experience should include some of the in-store excitement of going to a fun location, purchasing something new, and bringing it home in a fancy bag and wrappings.
However, there are times that logistical problems happen outside of anyone’s control during the shipping experience. Sometimes the company caused the mishap, or sometimes it happened during transit by the shipping company, but such unfortunate events can damage the product experience and the perception a customer has of the main company. Or can they? Could the company intervene to make the mishap not so bad and find a way for the situation to work in the customer’s favor?
Here are three stories about shipping experiences and what happened to make them too cold, too hot, and just right.
Kenneth Cole had a great sale, so I ordered some new shoes and masks. I was pretty excited about my order because I haven’t ordered from them in a while and needed something new. Needless to say, I was disappointed when my order arrived in an open box. A box flap was not taped shut. Luckily, everything arrived in pretty great shape. Only the box with masks was smooshed and the other shoe box was slightly damaged.
I figured Kenneth Cole may want to know about what happened to update their shipping process for future sales and customers. Because I work in customer experience, I figure companies always want insight into what the customer’s experience is. However, I learned quickly that’s not always the case for all companies.
I went to their site’s Live Chat and told a representative about what happened with my package experience. I also explained that I didn’t want any compensation for this report, I only wanted to let them know what happened for future customers to avoid such an experience. I figured all they needed to do was a final check on shipped packages to be sure that they were sealed. After I shared my experience, the response by the agent was simply, “Thank you.” That was it. That was the end of the conversation.
I was perplexed. I mean, if a customer just told your company that there was the possibility that a shipment may not arrive complete to a customer because the box was open, wouldn’t that cause you concern? Why would you not want to know this and take action, so it doesn’t happen again? Items could have been lost along the way and damaged. I pinged her again and checked to see if she wanted other information to follow up on the order and its packaging. She said no, it was UPS’s problem (they were the delivery service). And that was that.
Not only did I not feel heard by this agent, I felt like Kenneth Cole didn’t care that packages were being sent without being properly sealed, in a half-opened box. It was discouraging. Sure, I bought another pair of shoes from them which came properly sealed, but I’m now seeing them differently because they made it clear to me that they didn’t care about how their products were being delivered.
I prefer to order one-liter bottles of shampoo online so that I don’t need to run to the store in person to find them. I used to order this Aveda special color shampoo and conditioner because, I know, shocker, I’m not a natural redhead or blonde and I need product to help preserve the color. One day, I opened the box for my order and there was conditioner smeared everywhere. There was a leak with the conditioner bottle. So, I took a picture and called customer service. They immediately shipped me a new bottle. The good news was that not all of the conditioner leaked from the bottle–only a small amount–so I could still keep the original bottle and use what was left.
A few days later, I got a leaky one-liter bottle and messy box again. I did some of my own investigation and told them that the top cover wasn’t screwing on the bottle properly and left a small gap for leakage. And I discovered that I had the same problem with this cover as the last screw top cover. Aveda sent a new bottle again. But at this point, I was now feeling weird because I didn’t need a third new bottle with two other pretty full bottles, one of which was free. Sure, I was thankful for it, but at this point, I wanted them to just to fix the problem for others and be aware that this was happening. I wasn’t sure a new bottle was necessary.
Of course, a leak happened again for the third time. I called and told them about the cover. They again told me that they were aware of the problem and told me from now on I should buy the product at the store. At first, I didn’t understand how they knew this and kept sending me replacements that they knew would leak. But where Aveda got it wrong is the motivation I had to order online: I ordered online because I didn’t want to deal with going to the store. But apparently, I had no other option from them because they didn’t want to keep sending me free product. The catch was that I didn’t want it either and I felt weird about it. I just wanted them to fix the cover problem for others.
Shortly after that, I decided to try a new brand that I could order online. What would have been a better response from Aveda besides free product? An automated order to send me a free conditioner with my next order after they fixed this cap problem. What Aveda did with the free bottles was just too much. I felt guilty accepting their free product as a customer, and they felt it was an endless loop of providing free product as a vendor because that was their policy. None of this worked for anyone and made everyone feel resentful because they gave too much. They shouldn’t have done it. Generosity can be great, but when it’s excessive, it simply gets weird.
I needed to buy some ten-pound weights to push myself to the next level in my workouts. I found some that were reasonably priced from Amazon that included shipping in the costs. I ordered the weights and they were on their way until the shipment updates stopped and the expected arrival date came and passed. They never arrived. Amazon’s system suggested that I cancel the order. I called them and they told me that the weights weren’t in shippable condition in their current packaging. The customer service representative suggested that I wait a couple of days and reorder them.
I was initially confused because these weights weren’t something that Amazon carried regularly, and I figured that the deal was gone forever. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find them at Amazon the next day. So of course, I placed my order for the set.
When I did reorder it, I got them in three days, packaged in pristine Amazon style (although the boxes inside were held together by a lot of tape. And I mean a lot.). Sure, I was bummed that I had to reorder the weights and risked not getting what I originally wanted, but in the end, I got what I wanted in great shape.
So, what made Amazon’s experience just right?
Amazon understands that all customer touchpoints are part of the customer experience—especially shipping and delivery if you manage a store that is only online and those steps are typically managed by a third party. It needs to be a seamless experience that meets customer expectations. I’m now reluctant to order from Kenneth Cole again because of how they handled (or rather, didn’t handle) the information about the open box. My expectations are now set very low. And I stopped ordering from Aveda because I don’t want to feel guilty about receiving too many free products if they screw up a mail order. But why did Amazon get it right?
Amazon was honest and straightforward about what was happening, and in the end, I got what I wanted in great shape that met expectations. This is why Amazon continues to be successful although they are a monopoly and can be brutal to their workforce. The shipping experience matters, and they truly understand that and exceed customer expectations every time, winning their hearts. They take full advantage of that physical, tangible, customer touchpoint and make it not just a success, an absolute win and home run. Amazon makes the shipping experience just as important as the ordering and product and support experiences. It’s only when the customer experiences with shipping falter that customers will change their opinion of Amazon. That’s how powerful a well-orchestrated customer experience can be; a great customer experience can help customers overlook poor business practices or challenging employee experiences. To the customer, Amazon treats them well enough because they don’t feel it. It’s only when employees are angered enough to let their frustration show to customers that this will change. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t happen and Amazon changes how it treats employees, so employee happiness continues to be demonstrated to the customer through a qualilty shipping experience so that they continue to return because Amazon has truly mastered the delivery experience and this key touchpoint.