This is a true story.
The events depicted took place in Berkshire in 2017.
For the sake of the transgressors, the names have been changed.
Out of respect for the story, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.
Not long ago I bought a pair of walking boots. I was going away for a few days to Cornwall, in the south west of the UK, and wanted to replace my worn out boots with a pair that were more comfortable and - more importantly - waterproof.
Disinclined as I was to spend a lot of time trying on different pairs of boots, I went online. I read a few reviews and found a pair within my budget that I thought would be ideal. So I ordered them.
The retailer in question is well known on the high street and online as somewhere that puts value ahead of service, so I was delighted at the checkout to find I was presented with delivery choices. Real choices too - Delivery Company A was £5.99 for 3-5 day delivery. Delivery Company B was £6.99 for next-day.
Just £1 extra for next-day? That’s a real bargain, right? But what was more important for me was that I’d had a number of bad experiences with Company A and definitely didn’t want to use them. Company B on the other hand are famously great to deal with; frankly, I’d have paid the extra £1 for Company B had theirs been the 3-5 day option.
Imagine my surprise then, when I received an email confirming my boots were on their way with Company A for next-day delivery.
That wasn’t one of the permutations I was offered. Nor was it what I paid for.
Now hang on, you may be thinking, you paid for next-day delivery.
Well, yes. But also, no.
My choice was predicated on who was delivering, not when the boots would arrive.
Hang on a bit more, you may be thinking, sometimes deliveries have to be routed to different couriers due to order volumes, or other factors that can’t always be controlled. Sure, I get that. I’ll come to that shortly.
The following day, as promised the boots were delivered. They weren’t thrown over a gate, or left in a bin, or hurled through an open window. They were handed over and signed for. It was the consummate delivery experience.
But for all that, I probably won’t buy from that retailer again.
As everyone knows, retailers aren’t just handing over parcels to the couriers they work with. They’re handing over their reputation too.
If Retailer X ships everything through a cheap-and-cheerful courier that cuts corners on service, that tells me something about the way they value their relationship with me, the paying customer. It’s transactional - little more than that.
But if my purchases from Retailer Y are delivered professionally and courteously I’m going to perceive there to be a different kind of customer relationship going on. One that is valued.
Giving customers choices is all about giving customers control. It's also about demonstrating your ability to keep your promises to your customers. Or at least it should be. If you’re going to be prescriptive about the options you lay before your customers you’d better be able to stick to them. If you have to reroute deliveries from Company B to Company A, don’t give me the choice of courier. Just let me choose a service type and I’ll be blissfully ignorant about who is making the delivery until it’s in progress.
The way in which customers get their purchased items is now a fundamental part of the ecommerce equation; if it wasn’t why would there be choice in the first place? Not to mention the same-day delivery arms race the likes of Amazon, Argos, and Tesco (among others) are waging. For some customers those choices are becoming as important as the returns process when evaluating who to buy from. It’s certainly true in my case.
Whether it’s a locker box, a corner shop, or a premium delivery option, when I make a choice about how I get my hands on what I’ve bought I’m doing so for a reason. The fact a retailer has provided me with those choices leads me to believe they want to fit in with my life; they don’t expect me to fit in with them. But what’s the point of offering choices if the selection made by the customer isn’t honoured?
At that point you - the retailer - risk doing considerable damage. Raise people’s expectations by all means. But let them come crashing down at your peril.
The boots, in case you were wondering, were indeed ideal. As was my break in Cornwall. I’m already looking forward to going back.
Parcelly adds: 'We think Sean's story is a perfect example of how important transparency is in meeting today's customer expectations of choice, convenience and control in the first and last-mile delivery process. The decision to pay for a certain (premium) service is an active choice by the consumer to ensure the delivery method is both convenient and reflects their preferences. Any deviation of the online retailer's delivery offering, be it in terms of timing, speed or even courier used, breaks a promise between the consumer and retailer - and ultimately the trust established.
Parcelly is all about customer choice and convenience, to the extent that our app technology continuously evolves around online shoppers' needs. A perfect example is our recently launched mini-warehousing solution with Quiqup, which allows 60-minute delivery windows to cater for the rising 'I WANT IT NOW' attitude of customers when shopping online. We are also partnering with Eurosender to allow international shipping from our nationwide network of Parcelly locations, which saves valuable time for customers, increases efficiency and enhances our carrier agnostic network capabilities.'
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