One of my guiding principles is Reflect and Adapt, which is another way of saying learn from your experiences. Those experiences can be good or bad, and they could be based on things you did or things that you weren’t even involved in. As a result of the experience I relate below, I learned a little something about working with channel partners when I tried to surprise my wife with flowers on Valentines Day.
A Valentines Day Tale of Woe
February 9, 2012 Ordered Valentines Day flowers for my wife from 1-800 Flowers. I requested delivery to my wife’s office for either Monday the 13th or Tuesday the 14th (Valentines Day). I figured best for it to arrive early rather than late (or not at all)
By now, you may have heard from a smiling, happy someone that your recent gift(s) (order #XXXXXXX) to [Wife’s name] arrived. It was delivered on Monday, 02/13
February 14, 2012 My wife had still not said anything about getting any flowers. I finally had to ask. She had not gotten any.
I called 1-800 Flowers. After waiting on hold for 15 minutes, a customer service rep finally answered and told me that the flowers were delivered. I said they weren’t, and asked who delivered the flowers. The rep said that 1-800 Flowers couldn’t tell me who delivered the flowers, and I got the strong impression that there was little chance of any follow up to find out why the flowers were not delivered.
I told the customer service rep that if they didn’t tell me who was going to deliver the flowers, I would have my credit card company reverse the charges for failure to deliver expected goods. They told me that Boesen’s the Florist was supposed to deliver the flowers.
I called Boesen’s the Florist. After asking how I find out they were supposed to deliver the order and saying that 1-800 Flowers wasn’t supposed to tell me that, the person from Boesens indicated that the order was due to be delivered that afternoon.
It wasn’t. Not on Tuesday February 14th, and not on Wednesday February 15th.
February 16, 2012. I Called Boesen’s the Florist again. I talked to a different person, and they asked how I knew they were delivering the flowers. I told them that 1-800 Flowers told me. They said 1-800 Flowers was not supposed to divulge that information. I indicated that cat was already out of the bag so I knew that they were supposed to deliver the flowers, and that the flowers were not delivered.
The individual at Boesen’s decided to be helpful at that point. She claimed that 1-800 Flowers never told them that they had an order, which I found rather interesting given my conversation with the other person from Boesen’s a couple of days earlier.
This began to remind me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine were trying to rent a car “anyone can take a reservation. It’s the holding of the reservation that’s the important part….”
Once the person at Boesen’s decided to be helpful, she arranged for my wife to receive the arrangement she was supposed to receive a couple of days earlier. The person from Boesen’s also took great pains to tell me that the next time I wanted to order flowers, that I should just call Boesen’s direct instead of going through 1-800 Flowers.
I’m pretty sure I’ll call neither.
One Way to Fix It
I think the best way to explain the lessons learned is to take a look at one way that 1-800 Flowers could approach fixing the systemic problems that may have led to this issue. I’ve had to make some fairly large assumptions, but then again, don’t we always do that when starting a project.
The first step is to identify who all should be involved in the effort to understand the root cause and address it:
- An actual customer, me for example, could be included. However I think my acceptance criteria is pretty simple – I want what I ordered to be delivered where I wanted it delivered, when I asked for it to be delivered. So my involvement is probably not necessary, but someone should be included on the team who represents my perspective.
- Someone representing the local floral partners, ideally someone from Boesen’s who deals with accepting and processing the orders from 1 800 Flowers.
- Someone who knows 1-800 Flowers ordering process
- Someone from 1-800 Flowers customer service.
Next, this team could map out the process for ordering a flowers, from accepting the order from the customer, all the way through the local florist picking up the order, fulfilling it, and reporting back to 1 800 Flowers that the order was delivered. A good technique for doing this is value stream mapping. Using this technique, the team could focus on failure points in the process, most likely the point where 1-800 Flowers and the local florists exchange information.
Next, the team could analyze each of these failure points and understand the actual root causes of the problems. Is the interface between 1-800 Flowers and local florists difficult to use, do the local florist personnel not understand how to use it, is there just a lack of trust between 1-800 Flowers and local florists (which of course would require further root cause analysis to determine why there is a lack of trust)?
Once the team has determined the root causes they could prioritize the root causes they want to fix and start working to resolve those issues. As part of those efforts, the could identify some metrics to use to determine if their efforts are succeeding. One such metric could be a reduction in customer service issues related to undelivered flowers or customer service calls related to “why was I notified the flowers were delivered when my wife doesn’t have them yet?”
This approach would help 1-800 Flowers resolve the systemic issues that led to my experience and would most likely improve their overall customer satisfaction and probably improve their business results. It’s probably too late to win my business back, but they can certainly take steps to avoid further erosion of market share.