• June 1, 2016
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

Customer Engagement Starts (and Maybe Ends) with the Basics

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Story No. 1: A little while ago, I ordered a Dell XPS-13 to replace my laptop. There’s a long tale associated with this, but suffice to say, it was a good move. I went online and ordered a pretty primo machine, and when I got to shipping and delivery, I saw that if I ordered free two-day shipping, I would receive it on the day I was due to leave on another one of my never-ending business trips. Then I plugged in next-business-day shipping and found that if I paid $25, I would get it the day I got home from a previous business trip, giving me the weekend to set it up to take with me on the next trip. I figured that made sense, so I paid the $25 and placed my order.

Imagine my surprise (and consternation) when I received my receipt/order and it informed me that delivery would happen a day later than it had been estimated to be with the two-day shipping. Meaning it would happen during my business trip.

That was disturbing, not because it cost me $25 but because I had planned the delivery date to fall between the two trips deliberately, and they—I’m sure unintentionally—misled me as to the delivery date, which I didn’t know until after I had placed this very expensive order.

But worse, I sent an email to their customer service department explaining what had happened and that I felt this was a poor way to handle their customers, by providing some automated responses that had no relationship to the promises made. Not quite that eloquent, but that was the idea. I said that I “was just disappointed, not mad.”

What made me mad, however, was the response I got from customer service about an hour after I sent the email. Here’s what it said (with order details made anonymous):

“Dear Paul,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing Dell.

The following information relates to your recent interaction with Dell Customer Care.

Your issue has been documented under Service Request number XXXXXX and also I see that everything is good to go and as I see you have choosen [sic] 2nd day shipping which means once the item ships out you will receive the order within 2nd day, incase [sic] if you don’t receive your order 2nd day after shipping out dell will go ahead and provide you the refund on your order and I see order is shipping out on DATE 2016 and estimated delivery date shows DATE +1 2016 which is on time.

Your satisfaction is very important to us.

Thank you for choosing Dell. We appreciate your business with us.”

Setting aside the fact that I chose (and paid for) next-day shipping, they otherwise completely ignored what I said in the email, which was a response to their making the delivery date four days later than I had originally been led to believe it was.

Story No. 2: Several years ago, during the recession, a company that was paying me to speak put me up at the so-called “retro-European” Hudson Hotel in Manhattan. On the surface it seemed interesting. The hotel was designed by superstar architect Philippe Starck, with a trendy all-white minimalist bar that was very expensive and a hot ticket. In line with the retro-European idea, the lobbies were big and dark, the elevators were called “lifts,” and the overall look and feel was meant to be uber-cool. All at a reasonable price.

The only problem was the room. It was so small that if you were lying on the bed and turned left, you’d bang your nose on the wall; if you turned right, same deal. And you had to do any work perched on the bed because there wasn’t room for a chair at the desk. You saw right into the bathroom via a translucent curtain that was there instead of a wall. In other words, the room failed to meet even the minimum expectation of what a hotel room should be, and have. Utility—what you are in the hotel for, namely sleeping and maybe working—is trumped by Starck’s style every time.

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