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Killing Your Brand Is EASY - Only As Strong As Your WEAKEST Link: Why I Like FedEx!
We ask the wrong question in the wrong way when it comes to shipping. I've been waiting 2 weeks for a +DecalGirl delivery via USPS.

I am waiting for Godot. The package, skins for my new Macbook, will never arrive.

Fail #1: Me As Customer Service Agent
Decal Girl's first fail was to view my packaged as safely delivered. My tracking number said something about "non safe location" for the reason the package wasn't left at my door the way most Amazon, and others are. The big fail here is why did I have to figure out my package was never going to get here?

Fail #2: Me as Shipping Agent
I wrote Decal Girl last night and they suggested I go to the Post Office and track the package down. That is a BIG fail since they are moving the burden of their delivery failure over to me.

Fail #3: Suggesting I Pay for UPS Ground
The worst fail, as this is all on them, is suggesting I pay to receive a replacement via a more trusted shipping method. I had to push back HARD on that one. Decal Girl selected USPS as their shipping partner THEY must resolve the issue with them and me simultaneously.

AND I shouldn't have to pay for the USPS mistake. I'm already paying since my new Macbook sits in a box  patiently waiting for the decals I ordered from Decal Girl to arrive. I'm also paying because its frustrating to be told I have to figure it out and solve the problem OR  I have to pay.

WRONG!

There is an opportunity in every company's day to be a hero. Decal Girl walked by that opportunity today. They could have said, "We are so sorry and we will reprint and ship 2 Day Air on us to make up for the delay and disappointment," but that is not what they did.

They came through in the end, but made me get angry and upset before doing the right thing. Companies that do the right thing when pushed into a corner have been read the riot act about costs from some bean counter. What is the cost of this post? What is the real cost of frustrating instead of WOWING your customers?

This Is Why I Like FedEx
I can make a cogent #branding argument about why Decal Girl (or anyone) should ship FedEx. FedEx, unlike USPS, is a PREMIUM brand. For a little decal company to ship FedEx creates a degree of trust and premium expectation they can't BUY yet. Aligning with a more premium brand PULLS Decal Girl up two steps on the "trust" ladder.

The ONLY way for any brand to succeed is to win hearts and minds of TODAY's customers. Why risk such a valuable thing, the hearts and minds of today's customers, on USPS? This is called tripping over the $100 bills to pick up pennies.

In a HYPER competitive market where we have 10 choices for anything including protective stickers for a MacBook WHY would you risk so much over so little. Decal Girl loses twice.

1. Could have felt like a PREMIUM brand whose products are 99.99% likely to arrive when expected and in good condition.

2. Could have had me sharing pictures of my Macbook with their decals and an amazing WOW customer service story to tell about loss and recovery.

If you have an online business and are reading this NEVER fail on both of those fronts. You can't afford to for very long. My suggestion is talk to my friend Gary and his amazing +FedEx support team and STOP thinking you are saving money even as you KILL your #brand .

In a digital age YOU are only as good as the partnerships you create. USPS is a poor reflection from the start. When they FAIL, as they inevitably will, you must be ready to hop in a car and DELIVER BY HAND if you want to equal out the poor choice of partnering with such an unreliable carrier.

It's not JUST the unreliability that should concern you. FedEx has sophisticated backend systems that help YOU know when MY package didn't get delivered (on those rare instances when that happens). Those systems would have protected Decal Girl from Fail #1.

No system can SOUND confident, reassuring and glad to help. Those virtues come from TRAINING and PRACTICE. I spent $40 I may never see (or will see in another two weeks maybe) to protect a $2K computer thinking I would take a risk on a new vendor.

MY BAD. Decal Girl is not lost in the pantheon of bad customer service. They missed the mark by less than 10%, but less than 10% in the highly competitive market they are in can doom any Small to Medium Sized Business ( #smb ). Don't let this happen to you.

Do this instead:

1. Use FedEx and create free shipping triggers for ground and air.
2. NEVER make your customers do your customer service. Audit delivery and send emails asking for feedback (to catch stuff that falls through your automated traps).
3. Mistakes happens so create a "hands free" policy with your customer service agents - they get to do whatever is needed to win back the heart and mind of the customer including and up to hopping on a plane.
4. Don't trip over $100 in branding for $1 in perceived shipping savings.

I'm sure a bean counter is reading this thinking, "You will go broke that way". I suggest that bean counter read Malcolm Gladwell's David & Goliath and pay particular attention to the section on perceived advantage vs. disadvantage.

Shipping savings, a clear perceived advantage, can quickly become a major DISADVANTAGE to any online brand. Brands are judged by PERFORMANCE of the entire chain, so you are truly and finally only as strong as the weakest link in your chain.

Decal Girl has two weak links - USPS and their poorly trained customer service team (never blame the agent they are simply doing what they've been trained to do). Decal Gil is tripping over BIG MONEY to pick up SMALL MONEY and feeling good about it all the way into the side of the mountain.

Don't do that :). M
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Cendrine Marrouat's profile photoMartin W. Smith's profile photo
 
"4. Don't trip over $100 in branding for $1 in perceived shipping savings." Sums up the whole post for me. ;-)
 
Thanks +Cendrine Marrouat for your great Twitter-like summary. I like +FedEx too as a co-brand since they bring the "premium perception". NO SMB, including me when I was running FoundObjects.com, thinks about shipping as a form of advertising or as central to creating an online brand as it is. Zappos and Amazon sure proved the validity of that thinking, but takes BIG COURAGE to pay yourself AFTER you pay your shipper :).
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