The Gift of Poor Customer Experience

Today Argos and DHL gave me the gift of poor customer experience. It’s only a gift, for me, because I’ve been working as a user researcher / service designer and so it’s actually useful for me to see what poor customer service looks like. It provides me with insight into how services could be improved. In the case of my experience today the short answer is a lot.

I’d ordered a washing machine online, including installation and the removal of the old washing machine. Naively, I assumed that this meant that someone would disconnect and take away the old washing machine and put a new one in its place, unfortunately not.  It appears that neither removal nor installation included disconnecting the old washing machine. Apparently this is stated in the small print. Silly me, I should have checked.

The two men that turned up to deliver the washing machine seemed quite grumpy and in a massive hurry. At the first sign of anything complicated, they were gone.

After finally getting to speak to someone at Argos it emerged that the appliance fitters  they use are DHL. Not sure about you, but I think of DHL as a delivery company not a company that employs appliance fitters. I don’t really blame the delivery drivers themselves though. Much has been reported about the poor working conditions of delivery drivers, this is one of the major weaknesses of the rise of the gig economy. This article gives a brief overview of some of the issues. My hunch is that the DHL delivery drivers are neither permitted sufficient time, nor given adequate
training to provide a decent level of customer service when it comes to appliance installation.

Over recent years, some of my work has been teaching business studies students about digital transformation and how business models and processes may need to change. Supply change management and partnership working is right at the core of this. New and emerging technologies such as smartphones and cloud computing offer many opportunities to provide more efficient services and better customer experience. These were opportunities that were clearly not harnessed in this instance. Revolutions in information and communication technologies enable vastly improved service integration even when service delivery is provided across multiple organisations.

Examples of poor customer experience that could have been improved through the intelligent application of information technology include:

  • When I managed to get through to Argos – they could have already been informed of the non-delivery and reasons for it by DHL
  • They should not have needed to leave me on hold whilst they tried to call DHL to see what had happened.  They could have already been informed. This was a waste of Argos staff time as well as mine

  • After providing the order number I should not have been asked for my phone number, email address, etc. on multiple occasions – information systems can be real-time and joined up

  • After providing the order number Argos could have been aware of what had / had not happened rather than waiting for the customer (me) to tell them

  • If Argos has been notified as soon as the DHL drivers had realised that they had been unable to install the washing machine – Argos staff could have found and offered a solution before a disgruntled customer (me) contacted them

This situation was not simply an example of poor customer experience because Argos failed to provide the service that had been booked, but also due to their poor aftercare. These issues included

  • A phone number on the website that disconnects if more than a small number of words are spoken when asked to describe the problem (I got through to a human on my 4th attempt at calling after they had disconnected me three times already).

  • A lack of information sharing between DHL and Argos
  • Defensive and not very helpful customer support staff when I finally spoke to someone – accepting responsibility and offering a solution would have been much better

·      A lack of information sharing between Argos staff

Perhaps after working in user research my expectations have become unreasonably high. It is sometimes stated that the best customer experience received anywhere becomes the minimum level of customer experience customers expect. This is certainly not the best customer experience I have received anywhere and I would not recommend either DHL or Argos after my experience today. My review if asked would have been a 1 out of 5 for the customer experience received. A lot of room for improvement



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