Friday, 19 October 2018 07:56

Reputation challenge for courier firm

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One of the sad parts about the current pandemic, even as we celebrate our lifted lockdown and fallen infection levels, is watching the wheels come off companies and operations that we long counted on as permanent and trustworthy.

It’s an experience I have just lived with a leading international courier company, which I truly trusted to deliver as it said it would, until I discovered it no longer does.

And it has set my mind to the issue of corporate reputation, and the degree to which huge marketing budgets can override incompetent and shabby service. For, at the heart of maintaining reputation sits a gamble over whether we consumers are fooled by glossy ads over first-hand experiences.

So what was my experience: a parcel, sent urgently from the UK to somewhere in Kenya. It was pretty expensive. It took more than an extra day getting to Nairobi.

I knew passenger plans had stopped from London to Nairobi, but it came as a surprise from the company’s tracking to learn cargo had stopped too. Yet that parcel took two days to even get onto a flight to Amsterdam to go to Nairobi, which might have been a red flag.

But it got a lot worse in Nairobi. A week after the parcel was sent, tracking showed it still sat in Nairobi. I rang courier company who said it was because the recipient’s number wasn’t working, but it was.

I had its call log screen shots showing it had never been called by any unknown number in the last week, nor had it received any missed call SMS from being off — which it had not been.

Three calls and agents later, I am told the person handling the parcel is ‘at lunch’, but will call me back, on my number. No call. Ever.

Two days later, I am back to phoning Nairobi customer service. This time, I get someone stronger. He acknowledges the parcel has now been sat 10 days, but has no record of any calls to customer care and tells me the recipient’s number is off, so I say, OK, call that number. He calls it. It works.

He sends me and the handler an immediate email asking where the parcel is — on the same email address the courier company has had the whole time on the parcel’s manifest.

The email is answered. The handler says Sh8,900 tax is due. On Sh6,300-worth of goods? Tax at 120 percent, please send me the calculation. She does, showing Sh4,500 due. She never comments on the Sh8,900 error, but admits she never called the recipient’s number in the preceding seven days.

No one can say why. Her manager takes over: send the money, we will clear customs and get the parcel to you! Wow, really? You’re going to deliver this Express parcel now?

Not so fast. It takes two more days from Nairobi, our deadline is missed. The contents are now of no use, the entire delivery wasted. I ask for compensation. Oh no, Nairobi can’t do that. I need to call the UK. But you stalled it, not the UK, you can’t call the UK and organise my refund? No.

Well why would they, 12 days is the new delivery promise?

Then, they call the recipient and ask him for his satisfaction on 1 to 10: he says zero.

I had more parcels. I am now investigating its rival, every option, and will never use its service again. They messed up something important and appear 100 percent happy about it. Too bad for us, and too bad for anyone who uses their service.

Which is why a debate has moved around the world on the role of marketing and communications. Can any comms team do a good job for an operation that isn’t?

Many say there should be a communications lead on the board and certainly in the executive suite. For, how can an ad campaign show those smiling yellow-suited folk being competent, when the courier company forgets to call recipients for seven days, and lies about it, miscalculates tax, and cannot even speak across its own organisation, and doesn’t even care to?

There’s a reputation challenge.</p>
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