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Whose customer is it anyway?


Whose customer is it anyway?

Ian Kerr

What is best practice for in-transit customer communications? Should the merchant or the shipper keep the customer updated on the progress of their delivery?

When everything goes well with a shipment, the customer doesn’t care. But when there’s a problem with delivery, who does the customer call? Whose website should the customer visit?

Here are a couple of personal examples, where I’ve been the e-commerce customer waiting for a delivery.

Example 1

I ordered some new business cards from an online printing company. I needed the new cards before I travelled to a conference, and of course I’d left it until the week before the conference to order the new cards.

I’d used the company before, so I was confident the cards would be delivered before I departed.

A few days later, I received an email from the printing company telling me the business cards would be delivered the following morning. The only problem was that nobody would be at home that morning to receive the delivery!

I knew that the parcel would be delivered by a parcel company (not the post) so if the first delivery attempt failed then I’d have to drive to some distant depot to collect my business cards.

The email from the printing company gave me the option of changing the delivery date. I clicked the link, which took me to the parcel company’s website. Before I could change my parcel’s delivery date, I had to create a new profile with the parcel company.

I didn’t really want to create a new profile with yet another company – a profile I might never use again – but I needed to reschedule that delivery.

Once I set up my profile, I tried to change the delivery date, but the system wouldn’t let me. So frustrating! I tried different web browsers, different devices, but all with the same unsatisfactory result.

In the end, I wasn’t able to change the delivery date, so I had to hope that the delivery was delayed until I returned home.

But still, a question was nagging away at me: Why did I have to deal with the parcel company? I don’t consider myself a customer of the parcel company – I’m a customer of the printing company. Why should I have to create a new profile with a parcel company so that my print job can be delivered?

The story has a happy ending: the delivery was delayed until after lunch, and I was home to accept my business cards.

Example 2

I ordered some healthcare products online from a major Australian retailer. 

All consignments from this retailer are sent via Australia Post. Fine by me – I’m happy for Australia Post to have the business! Soon after my order was confirmed, Australia Post started sending me progress reports via email.

These emails often end up in my spam filter. (There have been some scams in Australia involving fake emails pretending to be from Australia Post.)

I’m happy that I’m being kept informed of my order’s progress, but should delivery status emails come from Australia Post or the retailer?

Whose customer am I anyway?

So whose customer am I anyway? Am I a customer of the e-commerce merchant, or the e-commerce merchant and the delivery company?

Do I have to set up a delivery profile with the post and every other parcel operator? I have enough trouble remembering my passwords as it is!

Or is this why Amazon is acquiring delivery companies – so that it has complete control over the customer experience?

The solution

The solution is obvious. Every e-customer customer in the world should have their own delivery profile that they can attach to any e-commerce order they make. The profile would be carrier agnostic, giving the customer one central point to manage all their deliveries and their delivery preferences.

Sound familiar?

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