Remember the Air Berlin story and that I had tasked my father with sending me that famous bag by DHL?
My parents were scandalised when they learned that they had to pay 160 Euros for the fastest available service despite my promise to reimburse their expenses immediately. Spending such a perverse amount of money for posting a simple package just because of a couple of stupid errors hurt their natural instinct of not throwing away hard earned cash.
But I did not allow them to settle for a cheaper alternatives for good reasons.
My insistence on paying 120 Euros more for getting the iPad a few hours earlier than with an alternative service (my mother immediately understood my real motivations) made my parents believe that their education had failed. But finally they gave in.
I had a good reason for that insistence. The service I told them to use offered full refund for packages not delivered within 24 hours within Europe, 48 hours in some remoter areas.
My summer retreat in the Southern Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains was one of those 48 hours areas. But I had learned from previous (really annoying) experiences that they never ever matched even the 48 hours deadline there.
Everything worked as planned and I made DHL work for me for free. The shipment took 3 days and they refunded the full amount (which made my parents happier than myself). Any cheaper alternative would not have implied full refund nor a 48 hours delivery promises.
Lessons learned: if your brand stands for great and reliable service and fail to deliver, you nurture customers who will convert their initial anger into the joy of exploiting your systemic shortcomings to their own benefit.
This is not necessarily bad, I am actually a big fan of “hackable companies”. These are companies creating loyalty among budget conscious or angry customers who know more about you and your rules then yourself. By letting them find unofficial shortcuts to certain benefits or discounts to which they – in theory – are not entitled, you prevent them from switching to the competition. But this must be done by design, not by default. Otherwise, it can cost a company a lot of money if the word spreads.
In this case, DHL offered bad service “by design”, which is always bad and expensive. Had DHL listened to my previous complaints, I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity to trick them out. Had they shown any interest in my case, I would have even told them how to avoid this in the future: a look at their online tracking system and a chat with the delivery driver gave me all the information I needed to have fixed their system, at no cost. But nobody was interested, not even the friendly customer service agent who asked for my bank account number to reimburse the 160 Euros.
Lesson 2 learned: Listen, listen, listen! Do you reward front-line employees to use their common sense when listening to customer complaints. Do you train and reward them for passing the information on to you, the manager? Do you communicate back what you did with that feedback, and why?
Customers can be your best allies to improve your service. Crowd-sourcing it not just a social-media-era generated buzz word, it has always been a big truth for all kinds of companies.