As I have business dealings with overseas partners I decided; after a couple of rather poor quality Skype calls, that I needed to purchase a decent headset in an effort to get rid of the horrible feedback that seemed to accompany these calls.
After reading the few online reviews, I decided on the brand and model of headset that I wished to purchase and set about finding a supplier.
The lowest cost Australian supplier was Nanobyte Solutions from Victoria. However, when I attempted to purchase the headset the following morning, it appeared to have disappeared from their website and an exchange via their online chat service was most unproductive. They promised a couple of times to get back to me, they didn't. So I decided to go elsewhere.
Next stop was Speedy Shipping Sales (as you will discover the name is obviously ironic). The same product was a little more expensive from them, particularly when the courier delivery cost of $15.95 was included. However, they claimed to have it in stock and promised to deliver in 1 to 3 days.
I placed my order on Friday, 12 June 2015. The order was processed on Monday 15 June and I therefore expected delivery on Thursday 18 June.
Thursday came and went and I thought that I should follow up with Speedy Shipping Sales, so I jumped online and used their online chat facility. Jack, if that was his real name was on the other end and promised to get back to me with an email to let me know where my headset was. I received no email.
Monday 22 June came around and still no headset and no email, so back to online chat with “Jack” again. He was checking with their warehouse to find out where my order was. He would email me when he finds out. Again no email.
Tuesday 23rd of June, back to online chat with Jack. It appears that there had been a "problem" and they were having to source the product from their supplier in Sydney. He will provide details. He didn't.
Wednesday 24th of June dawns and I finally managed to get a tracking number for Star Track Express (yes, another ironic name as it turned out)
By now I had rather low expectations. The tracking advice tells me that the item was picked up on Tuesday 23rd and was expected to be delivered on Monday 29th, so the full five days that Speedy Shipping Sales caution could be required to move a package from the eastern States to WA.
On Monday I re-check the tracking status and notice that they apparently tried to deliver my package on Friday, but that delivery was unsuccessful because the premises were closed. Now I was at home all day on Friday and there was certainly no attempt to make a delivery of any kind.
When by the end of Monday, I had still not received my headset I checked the tracking advice once more, only to find out that they had apparently attempted to deliver it again and once more has been unsuccessful because the premises were "closed".
I am normally a tolerant person but on reading the tracking history and knowing that there had been no attempt to make a delivery on either occasion because I had been on the premises throughout the period when delivery was alleged to have been attempted, I became rather incensed and looked for and found their feedback page and registered a complaint.
For the first time I actually received a prompt response, with Star Track Express acknowledging my complaint the following morning.
At about 2:10 PM on Tuesday, 30 June 2015, my headset finally arrived, a full 12 business days after I placed the order!
What conclusions have I drawn from these events?
Firstly, I will never ever purchase anything again from Speedy Shipping Sales, and would strongly advise others against doing so as well.
Secondly if I can possibly avoid using Star Track Express, I will do so. Australia Post’s Express Parcel Post would have guaranteed next day delivery for $10.20. Instead it cost me $15.95 and took five business days.
But the real issue at the core of this farce, is the appalling level of customer service, in particular the lack of communication.
If Speedy Shipping Sales had contacted me as soon as they knew that their warehouse was out of stock and that they would have to supply directly from their supplier, then I would have known to expect a delay. I may not have been entirely happy, but at least I would appreciated their keeping me informed.
Similarly if "Jack" had kept his promise and emailed me; even to say that he was having difficulty getting an answer from the warehouse, then I would at least have understood that he took my query seriously and was trying to do something about it.
It appears that some companies mistake the immediacy of online chat facility to answer questions for real communication and customer service.
Star Track Express have promised to investigate my complaint. Whether they decide to share the result of the investigation with me is another matter. In any event I expect that it will come down to a question of the delivery driver’s word against mine. A no-win situation.
I have to say that in my experience poor customer service; at least in Australia, is not that uncommon. Whether it is sales representatives; like those above, who fail to follow up on actions or the waitperson at a restaurant who seats you at a table and then forgets about you, the occurrence is widespread. In the latter circumstance I have simply got up and walked out to the restaurant.
How is this relevant to the mining industry?
Well particularly relevant to me now that I have joined the ranks of the service providers rather than the client.
I have always tried to make sure that I stayed on top of communication, no matter what the medium. Whether it is responding to someone's email or a voicemail on a message bank, I always try and follow up promptly, even if it is just to let the other party know that I have received the message and will give them a response later when I have time to do so. This confirms to them that I have received their message and it is my intention to do something about.
As a client I have always appreciated those consultants who have called to advise of the progress of the work that they were undertaking for me and particularly if they were likely to be late in meeting a deadline. Whilst I may not always have been happy with this news, I certainly appreciated being told so that I could try and work around their deferred schedule, or at least let those that I reported to know that there was going to be a delay.
Of course mining companies have internal customers and service providers too and the need for communication is no less relevant to these relationships than it is with third-party providers.
Many of us have heard talk of "silos" within operations or within companies. Whilst some of these silos can be the result of one person's ego trip isolating their department from the rest of the operation, in many cases it is merely the absence of effective communication.
Again there can be misunderstandings as to exactly what “effective communication” is. In my view, it is not merely the exchange of words and information, it is making sure that the information provided meets the needs of the other party and enables them to do their task effectively. So unless you take the trouble to ask exactly what the other party needs in terms of information, then you are not communicating.
So for those of you who diligently follow up on the various communiqués that you receive during the course of the working day, congratulations, keep up the good work.
For those of you who are inclined to leave things for tomorrow, or perhaps a day after, perhaps you should consider your approach. It can be as simple as setting aside half an hour a day to deal with correspondence. But make sure that you actively follow up on the actions that you commit to.
For those who are interested, the headset is a Plantronics Blackwire C720, and I am very pleased with my purchase. Indeed together with Dragon Naturally Speaking, I used it to write this blog!