Business is good and I’ve just moved into new premises (thanks, they’re great, you should come and visit when you are next in the Hunter) which meant sourcing a fair whack of new furniture. IKEA seemed a good option. It’s practical and affordable and I’ve always liked the Scandi look so one Sunday in late October my wife and I traversed the IKEA Rhodes store in Sydney for over five hours building a list.
The instore experience was adequate. Staff were on hand to answer the odd question about options and availability of certain pieces, a nice lass called Lola served me a cider at the restaurant and an efficient young man called Kye, who seemed to know all 15,000 SKU’s off the top his head, helped us create an order from our long, handwritten list.
Then we left the great rabbit warren that is IKEA … and things went downhill.
It seems unbelievable, but IKEA only started selling on-line in Australia in the last 12 months, initially in Tasmania and Canberra, and barely months ago in Sydney.
You can tell.
Given they were so late to the party (not to mention the fact they reported a profit of $4.2 billion last year so aren’t short on capital) you’d think (a) their e-commerce platform would be sensational (b) their user experience would be even better and (c) their processes and procedures would be enstaka (Swedish for exceptional but apparently the same word can also mean sporadic. Apt).
It couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s the complete reverse …. it feels as though they are pioneers in on-line shopping.
Despite the very basic UI design, the fact the in-store staff didn’t seem to be across the key elements of the ecommerce process, incorrect stock level information on three different items rendering them unavailable at the checkout and the fact our post code wasn’t recognised, the ordering process wasn’t a deal breaker.
The real drama was when it came time to receive delivery of our much-anticipated purchase. We’re talking a level of frustration that I can barely put into words but, if Game 2 of this year’s State-of-Origin series is a benchmark for 2017, it was definitely more frustrating than that.
I wrote a blog this time last year about the danger of outsourcing services to other businesses that don’t uphold the same standards as you might or that you can’t trust to relay your own brand ethos correctly.
The IKEA delivery contractor is the new poster child for that.
Firstly, to describe the ‘order tracking tool’ as underwhelming would be an insult to something that is truly underwhelming … like the post NFL version of Jarryd Hayne for example. All you are told is that the order has been ‘shipped’ and will be delivered between 8.00am and 8.00pm on the designated day which for the Hunter is either Saturday or Tuesday.
Saturday lunchtime I decided to ring to try and get a rough idea of an ETA only to discover that my order was not on the truck and the earliest it could be delivered was Tuesday.
I asked to speak with a decision maker and was forwarded on to a team leader called Alexis. She recognised my frustration, apologised profusely and offered to waive the delivery fee which I accepted. She also promised me the order would arrive on the next available delivery day. No question.
I checked the tracking page on Tuesday. It had been updated. My order had been shipped and would be delivered between that wonderfully wide window of 8am to 8pm. I called the store around 2pm to see if they could give me an update? “Yes sir, your order is definitely on its way,” said the eager store assistant who took my call. She was adamant I’d have my furniture before dinner time. Later that evening I discovered that she simply punched my order number into the same crappy (and inaccurate) tracking system I’d been using.
I called again at 8.00pm. The 12 hour window for delivery had slammed shut. At 8.52, after being avoided by the Manager on Duty at Rhodes and the Team Leader on duty at the Melbourne Support Centre I was finally told that my order was still at the Marsden Park distribution centre.
You can imagine my disappointment.
Think of every dud gift you ever received and multiply that feeling by the number of times you’ve had meal envy as everyone else’s scrumptious looking dish arrives at the table before your homogenous, uninspiring choice is placed in front of you. Well, that doesn’t really cover it but it’d be getting close.
I rang the Support Centre first thing Wednesday and explained to an amenable young lady called Jay, that this was completely doing my head in! She said she understood.
My delivery arrived at 4.30pm the next day. Via Walcha of all places.
Cue trumpets from the heavens.
I proposed that IKEA avail their assembly service to me at no charge given they had essentially cost me a week in lost productivity and hours of wasted time on the phone. To my surprise and great joy they agreed and, given there was “at least a three week wait” for their guys, allowed me to source my own provider. The very next day our local Hire a Hubby franchisee spent the best part of nine hours putting it all together!
The angst I’d experienced over the preceding week was almost worth it. I still haven’t touched a hex key yet! While I was psychologically prepared to wrestle flat packs for a day and assemble all the furniture I must confess that I’m thrilled I didn’t have to.
IKEA did their best to make things right. They waived the delivery fee, paid for someone to assemble my order and may have even retained me as a customer yet I remain completely stunned that a multinational, multi billion dollar business like IKEA that’s been trading since WW2 has such poor comms processes.
There are supply chain issues in almost every sector and sometimes delays just can’t be helped but, as a supplier the one thing you can control is the cadence and the tone of the communication. And, when things go wrong, you can also be proactive and get to the customer before they are forced to contact you.
No one likes hearing bad news but when you are forced to chase things up yourself to receive bad news – on numerous occasions, with the world’s worst on-hold music thrown in for good measure – it becomes even less palatable.
And just so you know that I don’t only write about my experiences of questionable customer service, I also spent considerable time and money on sourcing new IT stuff for the office that same week and received exemplary service from several retailers. Props to Blake and Fraz at Domayne Kotara who offered outstanding service.
Don’t be like IKEA and drive customers mad with conflicting advice on procedures and super crappy communications … if your business requires help getting your messaging right – from your ‘elevator pitch’ through to PR and media relations – give me a shout via Linkedin or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org