Federal Express has won the DONE IN BY DIY Award for 2010. FedEx beat back stiff competition from Covad Communications, Continental Airlines and Hewlett-Packard. In the final analysis the deciding factor was FedEx’s straight-faced insistence that customers track their own packages even when the FedEx system had misinformation. Afterward FedEx stonewalled when asked about the breakdown. *
In their defense, Fed Ex customer service people were looking at the same screens available to consumers. The tracking reports were fanciful at best and misleading at worst. At the time, Fed Ex management either did not know what it needed to know when it should have known, or did know what it needed to know but did not want anyone else to know. The tracking system was overwhelmed during the heaviest shipping period of the year—the day before Christmas. Fed Ex capacity failed the customer service readiness-under-fire test by leaving customers in the Do It Yourself wasteland.
Instead of full transparency or admission of an error in 2010, Fed Ex stonewalled. No word on what would be done to improve capacity or alert customers what Fed Ex would do in a future DIY debacle. Just stay in the bubble and let PR promote DIY tracking as if what happened never happened.
It underscores the consumer problem with Do It Yourself customer service: Consumers get done in. When customers are urged to go to websites that are out-of-date or out-of-touch, it demonstrates a low priority for customer service. The idea is to cut cost for timely support. (The FAQs in these sites deserve and will get a blog post of their own.)
Other contenders made their cases: Covad Communications’ promise that a DIY task of 20 minutes could transfer DSL service from AT&T was as far-fetched as a self-help kit for a kidney transplant. Continental Airlines’ website DIY for selling airline tickets for previously cancelled flights because of a storm. Hewlett-Packard’s 7/24/365 toll-free customer support number sends customers to technical help at locations that are 9-5, Mondays through Fridays.
In the end, FedEx is the reigning DIBY winner. Well done, FedEx!
* The system’s breakdown occurred in late December of 2009 and carried into 2010 with FedEx’s steadfast silence on the matter, as well as ongoing consumer access problems.