Logistics Smulgistics - What we can Learn from one Terrible Customer Experience

I want to deviate from my normal nonprofit chatter to share one of the most frustrating experiences of my life in the hopes that we can all learn to be better stewards of our organizations, whether it be for profit or nonprofit, because when we don't exude our mission, confidence in us is lost. People donate to people just as people shop with people; one terrible interaction or customer service experience can leave someone walking away never to come back. 

That's how I feel about UPS. I'll never use them again, and here's why: 

My boyfriend is tall and thin, a unique combination that leaves finding well-fitting clothing a challenge sometimes. After weeks of online research (literally, weeks) he set his heart on an expensive, nordic made sweater only sold out of a small business in San Francisco. I work for a nonprofit supporting small businesses, so I was all in favor of this purchase, even though it was out of our budget norm. Excited, he set his expectations toward wearing the sweater for a holiday event, a solid 7 business days in the future. 

So 10 business days later when the package tracking had changed, adjusted, readjusted, and seemed just plain inaccurate, I started my first conversations with their outsourced customer service line. Eager, although clearly just looking at the same information I was, they assured me my package was on its way. 2 days later, when nothing happened, we decided, at the urging of the customer service agents, to pick the package up at will call and intercept the delivery process. By now the weather had changed, and colder winds only fueled the anticipation for this sweater. The thought of getting it a day early seemed worth the somewhat lengthy trip to the distribution center, so we agreed to pick it up. 

With a little bit of caution, I followed up by calling the local center to make sure they had the package. This was now the 3rd agent I spoke to, who told me the package was in their facility, but it was locked in a trailer and he couldn't get to it until the morning. Frustrated, but understanding night shift limitations, I confirmed my arrival for 9am the next day. 

I then sent a series of emails, explaining my early exit from the office and now late return the next day. The "logistics" were  interrupting my work schedule. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a quick 30 minute errand and made the arrangements. 

So imagine my glee at standing in a cold warehouse for 2 hours while they looked for my package. By 11am my errand had now significantly cut into my work day, and I left freezing, frustrated, and empty-handed. I was on my 7th agent by this time, and no one was friendly or courteous. In fact, while waiting in line at the customer service center, 2 UPS agents were yelling at one another about the misinformation they were providing to a gentleman ahead of me. "I can't fight you and the computer system Shirley," one employee cooed. On top of being unorganized, they were unprofessional and unkind to both the customers and one another. 

Before my exit from the warehouse, they took my phone number and assured me a call once they had my package in hand. I returned to the office and stared at my phone, wondering where my package was. 3 hours later, when no one made that promised return call, I called the service center where I spent my morning and was degraded by a woman who wanted to know "why I was calling her about my problem." After not one but two transfers, I landed on a gentleman who proceeded to tell me that my package had been "Delivered."

I rushed home only to find no package, no packing slip. It hadn't been delivered to my door. The notes on the delivery read "met customer boy." I have never been, nor will I ever be a little boy, so I knew something had gone terribly wrong. I then called back, spoke to agent #9 and sat on hold for 35 minutes. They admitted to misdelivery to the wrong address and requested that I return home. Finally, a sheepish UPS man showed up holding my package, which by now looked like a crinkled potato sack. 

It should also be noted that all while this process was happening, the @UPS and @UPShelp twitter feeds were not only unhelpful, but I'd call them down right rude. They kept urging me to email them, but what I needed were the real-time results touted in the national ad campaigns. I don't buy into this company's false promises of streamlined and professional logistics, and while I can accept that human error happens, I can't understand how not one employee I spoke with gave me confidence in their processes, products, or people. 

I just wanted a sweater. Simple. I wanted people to help me when their operations failed. Rather than feel like this corporate giant wanted my business, I left feeling chewed up and spit out, unappreciated, and abandoned by a series of faulty computer systems and the irritated workers who ran them. 

We can't let donors feel like I did with UPS. For many of us, we are the product our nonprofit sells. One bad experience and donors will abandon us. They can't feel like a small cog in a big machine. Take the time to smile, write a handwritten note, and take that call even if you're in the middle of something important. If you make a mistake, own it and find a way to instill that sense of special, because any organization is only as successful as the customers and clients it serves.

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