I had a complaint to make to the U.S. Postal Service recently about a series of incidents in which my mail was delivered to another house in my neighborhood that’s on a different street but happens to share my house number.
The Postal Service eventually responded to my satisfaction, but not before making me use a frustrating complaint system and sending an automated reply that further infuriated me about the entire situation.
The customer service link is buried on the Postal Service’s website, a huge mistake to begin with. Then, the system walks you through a form that locks you into selecting categories and other information about your complaint. I was eventually forced to choose something as close to my problem as possible and then putting my real complaint in the narrative section of the form.
Already bothered by the initial problem and a frustrating complaint system, the email the Postal Service sent me three days later didn’t help. There was no reference to my complaint or how they were trying to address what I had sent them. Instead, it was a form letter saying my opinion matters and asking me to complete a survey judging their complaint system.
If you’re going to send an automatic reply to your customers, don’t wait three days to do so. (By the way, it was Tuesday to Friday, so an “it was the weekend” excuse doesn’t work.) I wouldn’t have cared if I had instantly received the email that said “Thanks, your opinion matters, and please let us know what our feedback system is like.” But three days later, it just shows your customers that you’re either incompetent at customer service or apathetic about it. I’m not sure which is worse.
But here’s the big kicker: the local post office called me on that Saturday. The guy called me at home, on a Saturday, and apologized for bothering me on a weekend but said he wanted to get to the bottom of my problem. I was very pleased with the person’s attitude and his answer. I won’t know if my problem is solved until I don’t hear about my mail being delivered to a neighbor’s house for a while. But I at least feel good about someone caring and trying to do what they can to address the issue.
Unfortunately, my first interaction with the Postal Service was abysmal. By the time the local guy called me to talk about my problem, I was not just a disgruntled customer, I was a disgruntled customer who was frustrated by the Postal Service’s lack of customer service up to that point.
In short, the Postal Service fell flat on customer service after tripping itself. They may have thought a speedy reply was better than a quality one, but speed doesn’t always define customer service. I expected it to take about a week before I would hear anything about my complaint. Why was I sent an automated reply that showed up three days later when a personal phone call was coming four days later? Also, if you want customers to give you feedback on how well your system worked, don’t ask them to do so until the issue is resolved. The last thing customers want when they make a request of you is to be ignored and have you make an ask in return.
Have you looked at your organization’s customer service system from the perspective of an unhappy customer? If not, you might want to put that at the top of your To Do list.
Mailbox photo courtesy of Ashley's Flickr stream.