Monday, February 27, 2012

Big Freight company with Big Customer Service Problems

For one entire week, we have waited for delivery of a little over 1.5 tons of Wool2Dye4 yarns.  They have been sitting in the warehouse of our freight company, the largest freight company in the country, and just an hour away from my door.  No one noticed that a customs form had not been attached when the shipment was received, or rather, that one of two customs forms had not been attached. 

They work there every day, they handle all different kinds of shipments, yet no one noticed.  The two people who made it their business to follow every document for every shipment have either quit or retired, and with some disgust, I might mention.  Now, there is not one single contact who has stepped up to the position of responsibility.  'It's not my job,' rings through with every communication.

It is enough to change shippers, and this is not an easy thing to do nor is it a decision come to lightly.  We are talking about setting up paperwork with me, my broker, the mill, the airlines, each port along the path between the mill and Virginia.  It's a big deal.  Plus, it will probably be a time of getting the path corrected here and there.  Sometimes path correction is a literal process, especially with a smaller freight company who does not have a network into every town and burg.  We've just got to work things out so that there are many pairs of eyes on the progress to spot issues.

Shipping involves a substantial financial outlay.  While we are not a huge company, we are a consistent shipper of around two tons each month, and this seems to be enough for  smaller companies to think that our business is attractive.  Not enough, though, for the Big One to actually notice.

I cannot list the number of people who have first told me that they would find out what is going on, and promise to call me back that day, yet never contact me.  Sometimes I feel that someone somewhere is having fun watching customers squirm.  Wool2Dye4 is just going to squirm right on out of their clutches and very soon.

Of course, this does not get my shipment to me any faster.

I truly hate backorders.  My attitude towards stock and filling orders has always been based on filling orders immediately and shipping them within 24 hours.  Over the years, I thought I had learned how to gauge the arrival day of incoming stock shipments, but this past week has taught me a lesson I thought I had learned:  don't count your kilos before they arrive.  Oh, my.  I may even have written that here in this blog when the same lesson smacked me in the consciousness!

So, here I am, a little grain of sand on the horizon of commerce who spends what we consider to be a significant amount on freight, not counting daily pickups by the same company, each year.

Customer service.  For me it about each customer and getting their order out.  It is about choosing samples to tuck into the package which are of yarns of a similar weight but differ slightly from the ones they ordered.  It is about keeping my people up to date with news.  I know that not all of my customers are on, and so I publish a customer newsletter with news of upcoming shipments, new or retiring yarns, release dates of the new lines, etc.  I often bring in an extra shipment of yarns which are retiring because of the complaints from those who love the retirees.  Every single time, though, I wind up looking at a full shelf for months on end.  What to do?  I have to let those customers who complained get another chance to stock up on their beloved special ones.  I want them to be happy, and to come back to us.  Timely delivery and good service are basics of how we do our business.

I remember reading a book on entrepreneurship a few years ago and it was called Minding My Own Business.  Don't know if it is still in print, even, but if so, then I absolutely recommend it.  One of the points which stood out to me was for the small businessperson to think of themselves as a mini Fortune 500 company.  Do what they do.  Have a logo, a color scheme, a recognizable presence.  Follow up on your promises, and get the goods into your customers' hands and fast.  Plan your work, and work you plan, right?

Ok, enough rambling.  I had to post here because this week's delay in receiving the shipment has caused some customers schedule disruptions because there is one yarn in the shipment which ran out of stock.  It is Sheila's Gold, and it has become our best seller in the past couple of months.  So, to be without it is quite a strain.

A strain, but not an impossible obstacle, of course.  The shipment will arrive, and I sure hope that is today!  We'll get the orders out and write apologetic notes of explanation on the packing lists, and we'll work like mad folk to get this all done.  For the future, we've doubled and tripled quantities of this yarn on future orders at the mill, but that can only be affected two months out.  For the next two months, we'll receive normal quantities, then boost up to the level of plenty.

Customer service.  Recognizing what your customer wants and needs, and then getting it to them in the quickest, most efficient manner possible.  I love good customer service, really!  Giving it, of course, but receiving as well.  Right now, I am not getting good customer service from the Big Guys.  I have choice, though, so lack of their good customer service will cost them one customer.  Maybe one customer at a time, who knows?

1 comment:

Lorena said...

I keep wanting to comment on this, but really, other than "you hit the nail on the head" or "Agree (1)" ... I really don't know what to say! Good customer service, like you give (even to your smallest customers) is so easy to do. Treat people like human beings. What is it about big companies that makes them lose sight of that?