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Customer Experience

The ‘Last Mile’ in Retail is Often the Most Important


A delivery man throws a package at the author's front door

A delivery man throws a package at the author’s front door.

Product delivery, also known as the “last mile” in retail, is often the most complex part of the transaction because it’s usually dependent on third parties. It’s been a strange few weeks for me and delivered packages recently, and those third parties didn’t do the retailers any favors.

Related: How Your Industry’s Ecosystem Can Affect The Customer Experience

Throwing Away Business

It started with a package delivery that was literally thrown onto my front stoop, when the delivery man could have just walked two more steps and placed it at my front door. When I show people the photo or Ring video, the first question they always ask is “was the package breakable?”. My answer: Does it matter?

To their credit, the delivery service answered my Twitter direct message in 9 minutes:

I apologize for the service that you received during delivery of your package. I would like to report this. Please provide me with your complete address, phone number, and email address. Also, were the contents still intact?

And then:

I am glad the contents are intact, and apologize for how the driver handled the delivery. I filed a complaint for you regarding this delivery issue, and your case number is XXXXXXXX. My apologies again on behalf of XXXXXXXX for the inconvenience this has caused you. I hope that we have the opportunity to serve you more satisfactorily in the future.

The company even asked for the Ring video to use for training purposes. Good recovery, but of course it should have never happened in the first place. It left me wondering how mortified the retailer would be if they only knew.

Inventory Management

I ordered a pair of jeans from one of my favorite retailers, and was thrilled when I found a pair on clearance in my size. But as soon as they arrived, I knew something was amiss: The jeans were covered in dog hair.

OK, I thought, someone tried them on and returned them. It’s fine, I’m going to wash them anyway. I tried them on and had to laugh: They were way too long, and way too tight in the waist. So I double-checked the paper tag affixed to the waistband: 32/30 – exactly my size. Except they clearly weren’t.

Next I checked the sewn-in tag inside the pants. Sure enough, that one said 30/32 – shorter and tighter. I packaged up the pants, completed the return form asking for a replacement, and brought them to my local shipping store. It’s more than a week later, and I haven’t heard anything from the retailer.

If this retailer – to which I have been quite loyal – took even a moment to put themselves in their customer’s shoes (or jeans!), they would realize that my experience has poor. I thought I found a great deal, and then was disappointed at both a dirty and ill-fitting pair of jeans. How will they recover? My guess is a silent refund without any offer to make it right because it’s the easy way out.

Order Completion

Is the order complete when the retailer says it is, or when the customer says it is?

I recently ordered a new bedroom set for my daughter. I purchased all of the furniture from one retailer, and then a mattress and base from a second retailer.

Retailer #1 shipped the furniture in 9 boxes to a freight company, and once the freight company received the boxes, the retailer proclaimed that the order had been “delivered.” Except that it was still more than a week away from arriving at my house. How does that leave a customer feeling, when they’ve spent a lot of money on new furniture and suddenly it’s “delivered” but not really?

Retailer #2 shipped the base immediately, and although they did alert me that the mattress would be shipped separately, they didn’t prepare me for seeing online that my order was “completed” when only the base had arrived. Nearly a week later, I finally received the mattress, but those days in between were filled with stress and questions.

Communication is one of the biggest opportunities that most companies have to improve their customer experience. It’s always better to overcommunicate than under-communicate, and in this case, a little more communication would have made the entire ordering experience much smoother.

The Last Mile

The “recency effect” in psychology says that people remember the last thing that happens more than things that happened earlier. According to the American Psychological Association, the recency effect is:

a memory phenomenon in which the most recently presented facts, impressions, or items are learned or remembered better than material presented earlier. This effect can occur in both formal learning situations and social contexts. For example, it can result in inaccurate ratings of a person’s abilities due to the inordinate influence of the most recent information received about that person.

In other words, the last part of the customer experience may be the most important in your customers’ minds. So make sure that every customer gets your company’s full attention and resources on every order, every time, until the very end.

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