Constraints Drive Customer Service – How Do You Manage Them?
In the early 2000s, I ran a mail management service. When I began, I had multiple customers from the finance and insurance sector and some prestigious clubs in Chennai. I was charging a premium for the clubs. I handled the service only for Chennai city.
Organizations in the finance and insurance sector sent about 3000 communication envelopes in a month within the city. I handled all of it, using an outsourced partner to do the delivery while we dealt with the backend.
There weren’t many issues.
When it came to the prestigious clubs, they used to send out one communication to about 100 members of theirs. They wanted proof of delivery (POD) of whatever was being sent. The outsourced partner was giving me the proof of delivery. It turned out that the delivery agents were signing the proof of delivery themselves, and I had no way of verifying its authenticity.
So, when the club called me and enquired about the PODs submitted, it showed our organization in poor light.
That’s when I realized that Murphy’s law had come true – everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I also realized that I had to look at all points of failure within the process and ensure that checks were everywhere to avoid them.
So, I became maniacally obsessive about failure points. Because of this, the pricing wasn’t working out. The outsourced partner started charging me for every attempted delivery. I was burning cash due to this.
It was a challenge that I had to resolve.
There Were a Few Constants in This Problem Statement:
- I have to provide an authentic POD irrespective of whether the organization wants it or not.
- I have to pay the outsourced provider for every attempted delivery as the provider is incurring additional costs in delivery
Keeping this in mind, I returned to my customers, asking for more money than I was charging. They listened to me and said to ensure that the delivery is perfect for 90 days, and we can relook at the costs.
Now I knew my timelines also to set this whole process up and running without a glitch. I brainstormed with my team members and thought through the entire process.
How to manage customer constraints?
We decided to turn to technology for help. For the club members, we call them up in the morning and find out their available time. Only during those times do we attempt to deliver.
We decided to use text messages because the volumes were high for other customers. So, we spoke to one of the mobile service providers and bought access to their SMS gateway to send out custom messages to our customers.
It cost us 0.30 rupees per SMS on those days. We started sending text messages to all our customers for whom we are attempting delivery that day. When our delivery attempt fails, we deliver it with their security or at one of the neighbors and send them a text again stating where it has been delivered.
This improved the success rate of our delivery, even though it added additional cost to the process.
Once we started sending out messages, we reached out to the brands for whom we were managing mails.
We told them, listen, we send about 3000 messages on your behalf every month, and would you like to have some promotional stuff added to them?
It opened the floodgates for us, and now we are charging them a fee for those promotional messages besides charging them for the text messaging.
It was a win-win for all.
After successfully running this for a few years, I exited this business.
I understood from this experience that customer service and customer satisfaction are organization-wide responsibilities, and every person’s job is directly related to it.
In our case, look at how everyone came together:
- The organization had to part with their customer’s mobile numbers
- Our delivery partners had to plan their delivery based on the schedule given by us and collect relevant information when it was delivered to a neighbor or the security
- We had to innovate and sign up with mobile service providers to send custom text messages, eventually turning that into a business opportunity.