Tuesday, 18 May 2010

How to survive being useless

I’m currently in the process of having some things I bought online delivered.  I say “in the process of” because the things in question have been given to the courier who are currently in the process of trying to deliver them to my house.

It always intrigued me how couriers could survive in what must be a very competitive market when they give very bad service to the people they are delivering to.  But the answer is really quite obvious.

Couriers aren’t paid by the people who receive the items, they are paid by the people sending them.  In the particular case I’m thinking about the couriers (the courier in case you care) only deliver on behalf of business with accounts.  So how does that protect them from the normal effects of being crap at what they do?

Well, let’s look at my particular case.  I bought something online.  I bought it online because it was a good price, and the delivery charge looked reasonable.  It didn’t occur to me to look at which delivery service they were using – and even if I had decided to look, I would only have been given a company name which would’ve then involved more online research to find the services offered by that delivery company.  So, as most online buyers do, I simply bought my items and paid and presumed that the company I was buying from would arrange delivery.

As is often the case with this courier things went wrong with both the delivery and the courier’s follow-up to my complaint.  Initially, I was shocked, and was ready to fire off letters and emails to the courier to vent my frustration but then I realised there’s little point, as the courier don’t actually care if I’m happy or not.

If I’m unhappy, I complain to the courier, but not being a customer of theirs I am not in a position to actually remove any business from them or seek any form of compensation.  The courier company may receive the complaints, but their contract is with the seller, and in order for the seller to complain to the courier it would take me to complain to the seller, and the seller to pass that complaint onto the courier.  This route is so round-about that only a very small amount of feedback will ever make it through.

So despite the courier being terrible at “delivering things” – which is the one and only thing they do – they are vaccinated if not entirely immune to the usual effects of providing bad service.

In order for my bad experience to have an effect on the courier’s business, the seller I use would have to receive a large number of complaints and would have to have the time to collect the information and pass it onto the courier.  The default reaction of anyone waiting for a parcel is to contact the courier direct, and I guess only a small proportion of those who do so will also contact the original vendor.

With my experience of the past few days, I’ve made a mental note not to order from any company which use this particular courier as the delivery courier.  I do so mostly for my own sanity rather than because I think it’ll make any difference.  A quick Google for this courier will show you that I’m not the only one with problems but given that it seems the courier have never been any good at delivering things and they are still around and thriving as a business it seems as though in some industries it is perfectly possible to have just one function as a company, perform that function very badly indeed and yet still survive as a successful company.

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