When we left off, it was March 13 and I had just been told that my goods weren’t scheduled to leave Buffalo until March 21. Resigned to a perpetual life of squatter-dom, I bravely soldiered on.
On March 15, the Buffalo office called me to say they had good news – that the shipment was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo on March 21. “But two days ago, your customer service team said it wasn’t going to leave Buffalo until March 21?” I asked. She assured me that the goods had left Buffalo and that the shipping tables she was looking at showered that I would get my delivery on March 21, just one day after my estimated delivery window. I allowed myself to get a little bit excited and geared up for my last week-end sleeping on an air mattress.
On March 18, I received tweets from the @Alliedvl account, whom I had included in the link to my previous article.
Allied Mistake #9: If you’re going to use social media as a customer service tool, you need to be timely about it. Though I did not tweet to Allied with a specific customer service request, it was three business days (five regular days) later that they followed-up – in a world where social interactions are almost “real-time”, that seems like a significant delay. However, this is minor. Whoever is running their social media is polite and seemingly wants to help. They don’t appear to have the agency/authority to do anything, but other than some timeliness issues, good job on being polite on the internet.
Early morning on March 19, Allied customer service called me and informed me they had a new scheduled delivery date for my goods – April 2. My reaction was, “Excuse me, what?” This was two business days after they’d told me that delivery was scheduled for the 21. To say I was confused and super irritated would be an understatement. I’m pretty sure that the woman I spoke to on the phone had read my previous article because she kept saying, “Well, I’m trying to be pro-active and let you know what’s going on. You want us to be pro-active, right?” I didn’t appreciate being mocked/parroted. (Or, maybe I was just being sensitive. Traffic stats show that a lot of people direct-loaded that page though.) She was not particularly pleasant and really didn’t seem all that concerned about their lack of service delivery, particularly given that April 2 would be almost a month after they picked up my stuff in Buffalo. In fairness, I got a little emotional about the whole thing – and I mean, at that point, it’s kind of warranted? Would you be excited about spending Easter and Dyngus Day! sitting on a hardwood floor without a pot to cook in? Plus, why does the story keep changing? I told her I didn’t have much confidence in what she’d said and that was that.
Allied Mistake #10: And this is really just a repeat of previous mistakes: know your business, be empathetic to your customers, don’t constantly change the service promise.
On March 21, Allied customer service called me again. “The delivery date has changed again.” (What? It has?! I find that shocking and hard to believe!) “But, it’s good news, your things will arrive either Monday or Tuesday. I asked why it was so different (a full week sooner) than I’d been told just two days before. She didn’t know but told me that my stuff would arrive the following Monday or Tuesday. I asked when I was going to be told exactly when to expect the truck; she said someone from her office would call me on Friday to confirm. Fantastic. I asked if she had the final weight of my shipment (I was curious to know if I met the weight requirement to get compensated for the delay). She said that she didn’t, that they don’t get the weight until the truck has been unloaded. This was in direct contrast to the many previous times I’d been told that they get the final weight when the truck is loaded. Okay then.
On Friday, March 22, nobody called me. At 4:45 EST, I called the customer service line and asked if they could let me know whether it was going to be Monday or Tuesday. The guy who answered the phone was really nice and said he was going to take a look through the notes. I joked that the notes were probably a bit of a mess because it had been a bit of a process. He asked if he could put me on hold so he could check with dispatch. I said sure. When he came back on the line, he apologized for the wait and said he’d spoke with dispatch and that the shipment would be arriving Monday and that he had left a message with the driver to call me back within two hours to confirm the time. The driver did not call me.
Allied Mistake #11: Over and over and over again, Allied said they were going to do things that the didn’t. Whether it was as simple as returning a phone call or as big as delivering my goods when they said they were going to, they continually failed.
On Sunday March 24 at 9:30am or so, my phone rang. It was the truck driver. He asked if he could deliver the goods that day. A day early? Sure! I asked what time he was planning to come and he said, “I don’t know, sometime. Probably this afternoon.” Okay, fair enough. I told him that I had to leave the house at 6, so he needed to be done unloading by then. (As excited as I was to get my furniture, my whole life doesn’t revolve around waiting for them to show up. I had purchased a concert ticket for that night for a show I was really looking forward to.) He said that it would probably be around 3 that he would be here. I asked him if he was sure that was enough time to get everything unloaded by 6. He said yes and that he would call to confirm when he would be arriving.
He did not call.
At 2:15pm, I called him and asked if he would be delivering my stuff that afternoon. He said yes. I asked him when. He said, “Maybe 5 or so.” I reiterated that he needed to be done unloading by 6, so that wouldn’t work. I asked him what would happen if he was unable to deliver that afternoon. He said if he “couldn’t deliver today (I’ll) deliver Friday.” What? No? I told him that if he didn’t deliver on Sunday, he would deliver on Monday like the company told me he would. He laughed at me and said he’d be there in 45 minutes. I confirmed that he’d be arriving at 3 and have everything unloaded in three hours. He said yes.
He showed up at 4:10pm and promised he’d be really quick in unloading. I was skeptical, but okay, great. They opened the side of the truck. The things that were visible were not my things, though I did see my garbage can way at the top.
Taken from my window
He came back upstairs and said, “There’s a shipment in front of yours that we have to unload first. It’s a mile away; I’ll be back in an hour.” Okay, now, I’m not a moron. There is no way he was leaving, unloading a shipment, coming back, and getting my stuff unloaded before 6. I told him as much. He said, “Okay, I’ll bring your stuff on Tuesday.” And I said, “No, you’ll deliver my stuff tomorrow, like the company told me you would.” He said, “Well, maybe. Don’t you have a friend who could stay here while we unloaded things?” I told him I did not. He told me that he was leaving and would be back. I asked him when he was going to be back. He tried to leave without telling me when he would be back.
At this point, I got really short with him and said, “Listen, I apologize for being short with you but this whole process has been a disaster. You are going to come back tomorrow and deliver my shipment. I need you to tell me when you will be coming back tomorrow.” He got really defensive and told me that nothing was his fault and he was on time and… I kind of tuned him out. I repeated my question about what time he would be arriving on Monday. He said, “I want to avoid rush hour so I’ll be here first thing, at 7 or 7:30.” (To which I wanted to ask him if he knew what rush our was….) I said okay, I’ll see you in the morning.
I then watched as he put the ramps back in the truck and drove away with the doors on the side of the truck still open. If that didn’t reassure my confidence in this whole process, I’m not sure what would have…
Allied Mistake #12: Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t lie. (Again, some more, again, some more.)
Allied Mistake #13: Have employees that have some semblance of a clue. Nobody that I ever talked to indicated that Sunday delivery was a possibility. I was also told that I would get 24 hours notice prior to delivery. I get that there’s a lot of sub-contractors involved in this process but ohmygoodness, I don’t understand how nobody in this process had a clue. (And, I understand that after having spent so much time complaining about not having my stuff, it seems counter-intuitive to not want my stuff when he was here on Sunday. Mostly, I didn’t want to add “resentful about missing my first fun activity in SFO” to my list of Allied irritations and was really skeptical of his arrival/timing/etc.)
Allied Mistake #14 Nobody wanted to take responsibility for anything. The lack of clarity “wasn’t customer service’s fault; they were just telling me what dispatch said.” The delay “wasn’t the driver’s fault; I’m on schedule.” The lack of pro-active communication “wasn’t the home office’s fault; the local office should have handled that.” It was a lot of excuses, finger pointing, and lack of accountability.
In the end, the driver did come back Monday morning, right around 7:30. It took them three hours to unload. Other than my media tower getting destroyed and the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, they took my couch apart, everything arrived not too much worse for the wear. So, all’s well that ends well, I guess.
But, even as I sit here on my loveseat (which is such a glorious feeling after two weeks in a tailgating chair), I can’t help but look back at this experience and be more than a bit annoyed. If your business is service and logistics, you should be good at service and logistics. And, if your marketing message is all about how you make moving easier, you shouldn’t make moving harder.