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11 June 2006

Hitting the delivery window on time

It's been a busy few weeks lately as the product I work on as a hobby won the PC Magazine editor's choice award and we've been ramping up for a new wave of customers and downloads.

Now that the development is largely out the way, the issue of hitting delivery windows reminded me of a longstanding campaign of mine about home deliveries and which the Consumers' Association also mention on P77 of the June 2006 issue.

This all began for me in 1994 when I wrote the following letter and which was printed by Scotland on Sunday under their "SOD the public" column which highlighted poor customer service.

14th May 94
To: SOD the public, Scotland on Sunday.

Dear SOD,

I would like to complain about some atrocious service I received from an Edinburgh company who recently fixed my fridge. This is easily the worst service I have ever received from any company and I am writing to you to see if an end can be put to treating customers in this contemptible way.

Here is the saga so far:

My fridge broke down on Tuesday 2nd May.

I called a company offering 7 day a week , 24 hour a day service. I thought this would be really convenient as I go out a lot and 24 hour pickup and delivery would be really handy for me.

The chap was supposed to come on the Wednesday evening between 6pm and 7pm. He didn't show. They did leave a card, but obviously turned up after 7pm. It seems they assumed it was OK to change the appointment times without checking with me first to see if it was OK. I arranged another appointment for the following day for between 6pm and 7:30pm. At about 7:30 they called and said they would be over later. He turned up about 8:15 and to my disappointment did not remove the fridge for repair but had a look at the fridge and said the van would be along later to collect it. I said I was going out but since they offered a 24 hour pickup service, I thought I'd try it out and asked them to collect the fridge after 11:30pm that night. He said no problem, but again I was let down and no-one appeared. There was also no message to say why not, and no apology on my answering machine. Eventually they turned up on Friday and took the fridge away. I got a call on Sunday 8th to say the fridge was ready to be delivered I arranged a delivery time of Monday 9th between 6pm and 7pm. Again, no show and no explanation. Tuesdays times were 6:30pm to 9pm. Again, no show and no explanation. I called early on Wednesday morning and gave them times of Wednesday 6pm-7pm and Thursday 6:30pm-8pm. They got the two times mixed up and turned up on the Wednesday at 7:40pm. Not surprisingly, I wasn't in. They didn't turn up on the Thursday and when I phoned to ask why they said they had attempted delivery the previous day. It would have been nice to know this on Wednesday night so that I could have reconfirmed the Thursday appointment in time!

I phoned on Friday night and asked them when it would be convenient for them to deliver the fridge. I imposed no conditions or time limits. They asked me what times would be convenient for me and I said 12-2pm on Saturday. At 2:15, I got a call to say he'd be over in half an hour at most. The chap eventually turned up at 7:35pm. What kind of an excuse for time keeping is that? The company is currently having problems because one of their delivery cars has broken down, but if they call me and say they can deliver in half an hour, I don't see what excuse can be offered for not turning up until over 5 hours later!! This is completely inexcusable - I simply cannot afford to hang around indefinitely waiting for a bunch of incompetents who waste my time.

I realise that delivering items can involve unpredictable delays, but this is over the top. If the employees of this company treated their doctor with the same casual disregard when making an appointment then they would be laughed out of the surgery. "I'd like an appointment between 12 and 2 but I hope you don't mind if I'm 5 hours late". I bet that they turn up on time for people like that.

The company has failed to make allowances for only one of their cars being in service and has continued to set appointments they can't keep instead of rescheduling appointments to cope with their reduced delivery capability. I would hope that a letter in SOD would remind this company and others like them about the importance of keeping appointments, and of checking with customers in advance if an appointment cannot be met. The company doesn't even have a mobile phone - an essential item for this kind of work. I couldn't even post them a cheque and get them to deliver the fridge to a neighbour as they couldn't tell me the size of the bill when I phoned!!!!

That was 1994 and a small local company. Back to 2006 and major national retailers. currently offer the following delivery times:

" Delivery times are usually 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am - 2pm on Saturdays."

A 10 hour delivery window!! How many people do they think want to take a day off work for their convenience?

Tesco can manage a 2 hour delivery window. Taxi drivers typically turn up 5-10 minutes before the booked time. If these people can manage to have sensible delivery windows, and if the said delivery people can turn up for their Doctors, Dentists, etc on time without giving their Drs a 10 hour delivery window, why can't the same standard of service be applied to paying customers?

As one person commented in this month's Which? magazine:

Any delivery company able to deliver in the evenings and at weekends could become very successful indeed

I'd make a start with delivery companies and trademen that can quote a delivery window of a few hours and reliably stick to it. Evenings and weekends a bonus.

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