Delivery failures from DPD exposes omni-channel fragility at Currys PC World

Delivery failures from DPD exposes omni-channel fragility at Currys PC World
Den Howlett
Tue, 05/12/2020 – 22:51

It’s when things go wrong that you discover the extent to which retailers have thought through their CX processes. Once again we have an example of how it should not be done.
currys email fails
email fails from Currys (via the author)

In September 2015, Stuart wrote a story about an Argos omni-channel failure. In that story, he noted how Argos failed not once but five times, while Currys PC World succeeded ‘at every level.’ I’m thinking Currys were taking notes about the Argos failure, waiting for the right moment to ensure we all know how fragile their systems are. That moment has arrived and with striking similarities to Stuart’s case. 

I placed an order for a rather expensive compact camera which I need for work at home purposes. I talked about this the other week. What I didn’t say was that in common with many products, sourcing one with anything approaching reasonable delivery dates is difficult. At the time of order placement, Currys promised (and I paid extra for) 48-hour delivery which, under the circumstances was the best I could hope for. 

The due date came and went with no sign of the product. At that point, I contacted DPD, the delivery contractor. I should say that DPD used to be a delivery basket case but over the last year they’ve stepped up their game. The mobile app is easy to use, they mostly do as requested and from the start of the UK COVID-19 lockdown, routinely take photos of delivered goods for both their and customer records. They are usually efficient and their delivery people do the best job they can. 

I made the call to DPD late afternoon and the person who announced themselves as a manager attempted to discover what had happened. No luck but helpfully asked me to call back the following day if there was no update on the app. Noon came and went with no update and so I called up as requested. I explained to a new person what had happened and they said I need to raise the problem with Currys directly as they need to instruct DPD to raise a search request, Here’s where the fun starts.

In what now seems to be a common occurrence, I waited in call center hell for an hour before having to give up to take a scheduled call. As also noted elsewhere, Currys have removed their email contact details and any query raised with their RPA gets you going around in circles, with the admonishment to contact DPD. With no obvious way to contact Currys, it was time to go back to DPD.

This time the person was incredibly unhelpful, clearly reading from a script and unwilling to put me through to a supervisor despite the obvious nature of the problem. I then had a moment of inspiration. Thinking that if I waited until late afternoon, I might drop lucky and find a manager manning the DPD phones. That worked but of course, it meant going through the saga – again. This is where it gets interesting. 

Apparently, the DPD Hub at Hinckley where the product was last seen has a history of ‘issues.’ According to the person I spoke with, last year some 2,000 parcels went ‘missing’ in a single day, stuck between locations within the DPD facility. The person also told me that it was possible my parcel was in Scotland (I’m in Yorkshire and Hinckley is in the Midlands – go figure) but that he would manually make a request for a Saturday delivery, i.e. the following day. The theory ran that this would trigger action and move things along. No such luck. He also said and which I both understand and accept, that all delivery systems have failures but he claimed the systems are much better than they used to be. It’s a pity the same can’t be said for some of the humans involved. 

The person helpfully told me that if there was no movement then the best way to contact Currys with the hope of getting a reasonably quick human response is via Twitter. That worked up to a point. Whoever is handling that account is under pressure and I feel sorry for them. Over the course of a few days, I was able to get action from an apologetic human on Twitter, including an accepted request to cancel. Yesterday I finally heard that a refund will be made in the next few days. If it doesn’t happen then this story will be updated. Assuming the refund is processed as promised then a total of 18 days will have elapsed between the initial failure date and final resolution at my end. Not bad but not stellar either given Currys were on notice about the problem 13 days ago. 

In between all this and as you can see from the screenshot from one of my email addresses at the top of this story, Currys want to offer me a 6 month free deal on a Spotify subscription and, despite knowing that I wanted to cancel the entire transaction, they hope I’m enjoying my purchase. But if I want to cancel or return then I can call them up on the phone number that doesn’t answer or to an email address that doesn’t exist. Outstanding. 

Like may retailers, COVID-19 caught Currys out and they’ve had to rejig their call center in short order. Since the volume of online deals has rocketed by 166% over the same period last April, it’s put Currys in something of a double bind. Commenting on the call center problem, Currys was quoted as saying:

There is no bigger concern for us than customer and colleague safety, which is why we have taken steps to protect them while meeting high customer demand for essential products and services. 

Part of this has been to enable customer service colleagues to work from home and, unfortunately, this has had an impact on service levels. However, through the teams’ hard work and retraining some of our retail colleagues to support customer service from their own homes, we are answering more customers every day. 

We’re working hard to get back to every single customer and resolve any issues they may have; we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

I’m sure they are sorry but the problems are deeper than call center issues. The way in which you end up going around in circles between DPD and Currys is, I am told, tied up with insurance issues for lost goods. That’s fine. But without a dedicated number through which to reach Currys, you’re stuck unless you know how to trick Currys chatbot into putting you directly in touch with a human (type the word ‘agent’ and nothing else into the chatbot window) or are fortunate enough to get an agent manning the Twitter channel. 

Apart from telling you there may be a wait of an hour or more for the call center to answer, the Currys website hasn’t been adapted to suit circumstances where the loss of goods or returns is required.

Once a cancellation request is put into motion, delays between notification, acceptance and action are too long. I get that systems need checking but these are circumstances that are wholly predictable. They are part of all inline retailer’s business risk and therefore capable of process automation.

Friction and delays in the process are fundamental issues that strike at the heart of the customer experience. Where Currys has gone wrong is not understanding that delighting the customer is more about handling failure as it is about normal service. 

DPD doesn’t come out of this as well as I’d like but at least when you speak with a manager, they’re as helpful as possible, explaining the specific issues with Currys and how to overcome them. That’s a partial win but one that could be better if everyone answering those calls knew how to go beyond the script they’re given. 

As always and in the final analysis, it is not the systems that are at fault but the process designers who either didn’t think or have been unable to get the IT resources necessary to smooth out critical customer facing processes. The tragedy is that my experience is not uncommon and despite a slew of negative press, Curry PC World seems incapable of taking action. They might want to take some cues from John Lewis which, despite having problems of its own, provides a better and more relevant omni-channel experience. At least in my experiuence. 

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