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Shipping Errors – Make the Best of a Bad Situation

It’s not something to be proud of. 

No manufacturer wants to pack and ship a “less than perfect” order..  but they do.   On a daily basis, customers open up their shipments to  find parts that are short-shipped, totally missing, defective, or that  weren’t ordered altogether.  And these shipping errors have very real  consequences!

In my case,  a single missing part in a KitchenAid cook-top stove gas  conversion kit has delayed the completion of my summer long kitchen  remodeling project. 

Over an eight week period, dozens of contractors were orchestrated  like a symphony to transform cabinets, floors, sinks, walls, windows,  counter tops, lighting fixtures, electrical wiring, plumbing and  ventilation.  While the process was disruptive to live through, it was  impressive to watch and produced results that my wife and I are pleased  with beyond our expectations. 

However, because of that missing pencil eraser sized part, we can’t  cook in our kitchen, and our General Contractor won’t receive his final  payment (yet).  Granted, neither of these consequences, as a colleague  of mine taught me years ago, is in the same category as planes falling  out of the sky or babies dying, but for my wife and I, and our General  Contractor, it isn’t a happy situation.

I would have loved for KitchenAid to have shipped me everything I  needed with the original shipment.  Since they didn’t, I would have at  least loved for them to remedy the situation quickly and painlessly.   Instead, this is what they put me through:

  • They forced me to phone them.  There is no website where I  can orchestrate the process with them.  That meant waiting on hold,  listening to that infernal muzak, repeating my phone number, product  number, serial number etc…even though they already knew all that about  me.
  • They got it wrong…again.  When I finally got through and  filed a claim, they did organize an overnight shipment…which was  nice.  But they shipped the wrong part…which was infuriating!
  • They think I’m lying to them.  When I rang them up the next  day, I spent 40 minutes talking to a short tempered CSR trying to find  the right part.  She was looking at a parts explosion diagram and I was  looking at the part in my hand.  She insisted that my part didn’t  exist.  I said I thought it did because I was holding it.
  • They think I’m an idiot.  In the end, probably just to get me  off the phone, she said she would ship me the entire burner  assembly…part number 30 on her diagram…which probably  contained the part I needed.  Then she asked my how I wanted to pay for  it.  PAY FOR IT???  Are you kidding me?  She agreed to ship it for  free.  It’s due to arrive in a couple of days and I have my fingers  crossed, but I have my doubts.

My key takeaways for the organization aspiring to become “world class” in handling shipping errors: 

  1. The customer is always right.  Make sure that everyone in  your organization has totally expunged even the remotest thought that  your customer caused the problem. 
  2. Solve the customer’s problem…not yours.  Internalize the  belief that the job at hand is to resolve the situation as quickly and  efficiently as possible. That doesn’t mean get the customer off the  phone as quickly as possible and pass the problem on to the next CSR who  is unlucky enough to take his next call.
  3. Start the process on the right foot.  The front end of this  process, the part where the customer communicates to the manufacturer  what the problem part is and what remedy they are requesting, HAS to be accurate and painless.  If you don’t get that right, things will  spiral out of control pretty quickly and you may find yourself at the  receiving end of a blog post or tweet (or both) :o).

We at b2b2dot0 are currently enhancing our Hosted SAP Integrated B2B  Order Management solution to support the accurate and timely  communication of shipping errors via our service.  Since we have access  to all SoldTo, ShipTo, Orders, Invoices and Shipments information in  SAP, I know that we can provide a streamlined web based shipping error  reporting process for our clients’ customers. I just hope we don’t make  it too much fun to use 🙂

I feel blessed to have been abused by KitchenAid’s shipping error  processes in the past week.  I know that we’re going to deliver a better  product because of it!


P.S. – for the record, I love KitchenAid’s products and pictures of our kitchen are available upon request.

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