Why Do Companies Need to Be Shamed into Providing Good Service?

UPS logoEven in the era of social media there are so many companies that still “don’t get it.” You’d think they would by now.

The video below, which you may have already seen, documents the theft of an Xmas gift (iPad Mini) at a residence by a UPS driver after it is left by an earlier FedEx driver. It’s pretty amazing.

Once the video was discovered by the homeowner, who recorded it with a security camera mounted above his front door, he contacted UPS. However, as he told CNN, UPS gave him the “run around.” So he posted the video on YouTube, which of course was picked up by national news outlets and was exposed on the homepage of Yahoo.

Millions of people have now been exposed to this story and video of a UPS driver stealing a present from the doorstep of a home.

Some time after posting the video and its subsequent exposure he got a call from UPS with a promise to replace the stolen iPad. The driver-thief was identified, fired and arrested. But how much damage (even if only temporary) has been done to the UPS brand? I would argue considerable damage.

An iPad Mini costs less than $350. But the negative publicity and brand impact are worth many thousands of dollars — if not hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Consumers and would-be shippers who see this will be inclined to think that UPS drivers aren’t honest and perhaps to doubt whether their packages will arrive at intended destinations. (We’re waiting on a UPS delivery at our house that’s now overdue by at least 24 hours and what do you think is going through my mind?)

It might well send shippers into the arms of FedEx or competing services. So UPS will undoubtedly lose some revenue on top of the damage to its reputation.

Either because customer complaints are not taken seriously enough or because UPS doesn’t empower its customer service reps to address these sorts of situations, the company screwed up. Note that the homeowner gave UPS an opportunity to address the situation before going public. When the company did nothing he did what a lot of people in his position would now do: shame the company through social media.

(And now I’m helping to amplify the incident and extended shaming by blogging about it and posting about it on Twitter and Facebook.)

After being exposed UPS finally did what it should have done in the first place. The company was extremely myopic in its dealings with this customer and has paid a much larger price than it would have if it had simply investigated and replaced the iPad Mini. But this is a relatively common story: big company doesn’t take customer service that seriously and believes it can ignore individual complaints.

Unfortunately it often takes this kind of a public shaming and PR crisis to get companies to do the things that they should just be doing every day. It seems that many companies must learn the lesson of the importance of providing good service again and again . . .  and again.

Update: In trying to determine the status of our missing delivery I wound up being on hold/on the phone with various UPS reps for more than an hour this morning. During the course of my many conversations (in which I asked whether I could pick up the package from the local service center and was told “no”) I asked whether the superviser I was speaking to had heard about the video.

She said she had. It must then be something that has been widely publicized inside UPS.

An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.

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9 Responses to “Why Do Companies Need to Be Shamed into Providing Good Service?”

  1. Durk Price says at

    Greg, Well done, I think another point is that generally UPS has a good “name”. But this kind of incident is so fixable and a quick effective response would add to the brand value. There is no way a company the size of UPS can keep ALL bad apples out. And, everyone understands that. But, reacting quickly and proactively can make all the difference in the world.

  2. Greg says at

    Agree that it’s fixable. But what would be better is to have policies in place that actually deliver good service and prevent this sort of thing. 

  3. Frank Strong says at

    Two thoughts on why, Greg:

    1.  It’s reflective of the culture.  CSR metrics (and by extension philosophy) drive employees to get people off the phone faster rather than solve problems. 

    2.  Employees are not empowered to solve problems.

    Like Durk said things like this are easy to make right; moreover mistakes are a chance to wow a customer and earn and advocate.  Customer service may well be the new marketing. 

  4. Robert Stephens says at

    I couldn’t agree more.  I’m the founder of The Geek Squad so I am very familiar with the challenges of in-home service and the complexity of people-powered service. (I founded it in college 18yrs ago in 1994, sold it to Best Buy in 2002, and helped them run it for 10yrs until 2012). I left BBY in Mar, 2012.

    I think a missing piece in every business (that will eventually be assisted by technology) is a feedback loop. Companies keep making or repeating mistakes, without addressing root cause for the next cycle. The public is quite willing to forgive isolated incidents. It is the repeating of mistakes, and the lack of direct feedback into operations that prevents brands from attaining their true potential.

    But like Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee) says, “All of these social media and other tools won’t help you if the leadership doesn’t give a shit”.

  5. Robin Rowland says at

    Outside of the United States, UPS does not “have a good name.” In Canada, it is infamous for charging extortion level brokerage fees for cross border shipments, compared to its competitors FedEx, DHL, Purolater and the post office. As for picking up at a service centre, UPS once told me I had to go to a service centre to pick up a package with a brokerage fee. Only that service centre was 40 kilometres away at a time I didn’t have a car.  I had to arrange for the package to be delivered to work, paid for by the shipping department and then I had to reimburse my employer.  Also people should notice the UPS commercials are all about “logistics”  aimed at the shipper, rather than serving the recipient who usually actually pays for the shipment.  To UPS the shipper who pays them is the customer and the recipient doesn’t matter and I doubt complaints on social media will change that.

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Why are they still in business in Canada?

  7. Greg Sterling says at

    Indeed, customer service is the new marketing though many don’t realize it. Yet bad service costs less and that’s why it continues to prevail.

  8. Are Brands Doing Anything Good for Christmas? | Sword and the Script says at

    […] “Bad service costs less and that’s why it continues to prevail,” wrote Greg Sterling in a post titled, Why Do Companies Need to Be Shamed into Providing Good Service? […]

  9. Customer Service Is Reputation Management | Small Business Mavericks says at

    […] One bad customer service experience can have huge repercussions in the age of social media. UPS discovered this the hard […]

  10. jj says at

    I highly doubt this bad publicity will have shippers reconsider their business with UPS. If mishaps happen with packages, that’s what insurance is for; if the bad publicity puts people off when making orders, the shipper won’t specify who is delivering the package.

    You probably remember the fedex guy that threw  the monitor over the fence into someone’s yard? Did people stop using fedex after that?

    None of these companies are any better than the other.

  11. Greg Sterling says at

    Often in the short term there is some behavior change. Over the long term, you’re right, there rarely are any consequences.

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