Delivering Poor Customer Service – Sony and 4ourhouse.co.uk

February 16, 2012

All the DeliverDemon needed was a replacement battery for a perfectly good laptop that has been around for a couple of years. Previous experience with Sony meant it was no surprise to discover that Sony discontinue supply of their model-specific batteries long before the average lifespan of the laptop has expired. The Sony callcentre gave the DeliveryDemon the number of their accessory supplier 4ourhouse.co.uk as a supplier of the required battery model. The DeliveryDemon does NOT recommend this outfit. Why?

  1. The wrong battery turned up
  2. The price which had been quoted was not the price for the battery required – the correct battery, needless to say, was more expensive than the quoted price
  3. They cannot just send out the correct item, the customer has to pay for a new item and go through a time consuming process in order to get a refund on the incorrect item
  4. The promised email details for a return did not arrive
  5. The callcentre system loses incoming calls
  6. 4ourhouse had incorrectly recorded the DeliveryDemon’s email address – a particularly stupid mistake as the email address uses the same name as was correctly entered on the delivery address
  7. The callcentre cannot change an incorrect email address
  8. The supervisor gave a time of up to 24 HOURS to get an email out through their automated system.

That is one hell of a lot of mistakes and stupidities to pick up on one single, simple order. And of course every facet of this error allows 4ourhouse to use their own mistake to hold on to the customer’s money. In the meantime the customer, instead of having the convenience of online purchasing, has to waste time taking the incorrect item to the Post Office and obtaining proof of posting.

This is a stunning example of practices which give a bad name to online retailing. The DeliveryDemon will NOT be wasting any more time buying via 4ourhouse.co.uk In fact, the DeliveryDemon, after several years of using Sony equipment is seriously considering changing to a manufacturer with a more ethical and effective spares supply chain.


The DeliveryDemon Is Blogging Again – and thinking about the Supply Chain

January 17, 2011

The DeliveryDemon has been thinking abut delivery and technology. One of the benefits of technology is its ability to dematerialise goods and deliver them electronically. For music and videos and software that’s great. Where it falls down is when there’s a need for physical delivery. Interestingly, that puts at risk the delivery of the bits and pieces of hardware we need to exploit all this technology. We can use technology to place our orders, then it all comes down to sending stuff through the physical supply chain.

Two things happen once our goods get into the supply chain – they become unimportant and they become attractive.

  • The unimportance of our parcels

From the factory production line to the doorstep our parcel is just one of millions being thumped, bumped and dumped. No-one really cares about it. If it gets lost or damaged, it’s the sender’s problem, or the intended recipient’s problem, or an insurance company’s problem. Even at source, the supplier doesn’t care, it’s just another item off the production line. So goods get lost and damaged and no-one is answerable. There’s a cost to remedying the problem, of course, and inevitable the cost finds its way back to the end consumer.

  • The attractiveness of our goods

Many electronic gadgets and components are small, so easily lost, and just as easily fitted into pockets. Packaging, even if it doesn’t show explicit sender details, is often easily identifiable as containing some sort of technology. The value of such items can be high.

The DeliveryDemon has been told of many examples recently of people buying technology, only to have it beaten to a pulp on its way to its destination.

  • A card for a camera never arrived. The supplier came up with conflicting excuses, with one person claiming it was lost in the post while another claimed it should have been in the envelope with its companion which did arrive, but that it had not been packed.
  • A laptop arrived in a seriously battered box.
  • A mobile phone arrived in a sturdy plastic envelope which had been ripped open. An attempt had been made to slit the box inside, to remove items without breaking the seal on the box.

Of course, the costs of all this is being passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices, insurance premiums, and credit card charges.

Some suppliers are fighting back, attempting to make their packaging bash-proof. The DeliveryDemon knows a supplier of personalised beers who has taken it as a personal challenge to ensure that the full complement of bottles arrives undamaged – not a technology issue but the principles are the same. The packaging battle has its own cost, and not just the cost of producing and applying it. The more robust the packaging, the more likely it is to be persistent, and usually voluminous. Most often it will end up in landfill, perhaps via the complex recycling arrangements imposed by many local authorities.

Some companies offer tagging and tracking of goods in transit. For high volumes, manual checkin systems are likely to be error prone, even if with electronic detection of tags. For example, even if a box or jiffybag is tagged, that’s no guarantee that it still contains all its original contents. The cost of tagging individual components would be prohibitive, and would create electronic waste.

It’s often said that the main components of a solution are people, process and technology. From the DeliveryDemon’s observations, the money is going into technology (including packaging technology), the protagonists are hiding behind the theory of how the process should happen, but not nearly enough effort is going into delivering the people aspects of the supply chain. For many jobs in the supply chain, temptation can be high while rewards are low, and in a high transaction volume environment the effect of this is easily predictable. Yet it’s the aspect of e-commerce that no-one is getting to grips with.