This is a true story about communication failure, and it’s a little funny, but had implications for customer delivery.
A customer purchased a lounge suite and selected a specific colour of fabric. This information was fully documented on the invoice and the order placed with the lounge manufacturer. As the manufacturer builds a lounge suite, they order the appropriate fabrics form the various fabric distributors in the lengths they require for the order. This keeps the manufacturers costs down as they only purchase what they need when they need it. A logical and simple method of not tying up loads of funds an fabrics that may sit on shelves as there are so many variations and choices.
Although the order to the manufacturer was placed via fax (yes many industries are still using the fax as their main form of communication for documents), the manufacturer ordered the fabric from the distributor over the phone. The fabric was dispatched, the lounge suite upholstered and shipped off to the store for delivery to the customer. Many stores do not even get the product in after manufacture. Often it is delivered from manufacturer to customer direct. This reduces handling costs for all concerned and minimises risk of damage to the product.
In our instance, for quality and customer experience control we get the products delivered to our store for QA inspection before delivery to customer by our in-house teams. Although this is counter intuitive to maximising profits, it is our way of ensuring a consistent quality customer service and experience. A trade off, but one that has paid of many times over.
On inspection it was discovered that the lounge suite was the wrong colour. The colour wasn’t out just a little, but out by the full width of the colour spectrum. The suite was ordered in a cream colour and received in a dark red. Certainly not what the customer wanted. As the customer was expecting delivery, the situation needed to be managed, customer was informed of the error and the manufacturer was instructed to expedite a replacement in the correct colour.
What went wrong?
The question was… what went wrong and could the error have been avoided?
Well after investigation it was found to have been a simple communication error between the manufacturer and the fabric distributor when the order was placed over the phone.
The fabric colour specified by the customer was Mellow and the lounge was upholstered in the colour Merlot. Two extremely different colours that sound similar over a phone line..
This is how simple errors of communication can undermine a customer experience.