Australia Post's broken down parcel delivery system

Ever found a parcel delivery card on your doorstep even though you were home the whole time? Here's why.

Forrester Research

It all started with Johnny Cash. There he was looking out at me, his greatest hits, from the bargain bin at my local electronics shop for a fiver. Wow, a great bargain feeling that you simply don’t get from digital downloads. Unfortunately, upon returning home, I realised that my MacBook does not actually have a place where you can stick in a CD. How was I going to transfer this music now?

So I did what I normally do (and what the majority of consumers now normally do). I jumped online and went looking for an external CD drive for my Macbook to transfer my $5 CD (the bargain cost of that CD suddenly lessened by needing to buy a piece of hardware to transfer it). I found what I wanted easily, bought it easily, paid for it easily. Satisfied.

And then it all went to pieces, thanks to Australia Post. And why did it go to pieces? Because Australia Post’s customer experience ecosystem is broken. Here’s why.

When a customer in Australia is not home to receive a package, the delivery person leaves a small postcard telling them that they can pick up their package from their local AusPost depot. Mine is a 10-minute drive away in a place called St. Leonards. I’ve received many of these cards, and I noticed with frustration that sometimes I was actually home when the card was delivered, and no attempt had been made to try to deliver the package.

But dutifully I went down to the depot, and because I work in customer experience, I have a tendency to notice what was going on during an incident like this.

In the line in front of me, several people all made the same complaint: “I was home when this was supposedly delivered, but I had to come down here to pick up my package.” The clerks at the depot were fantastic.

They calmly explained that packages are not delivered by Aus Post staff, but by contractors -- not AusPost employees. These contractors are not bound to the same rules and policies as normal posties. They went on to say that this was really frustrating to them as well, and would the customers kindly call the AusPost complaints number and register an official complaint each time it happened. They even went so far as to write the phone number in thick black marker on the boxes of every single customer.

At Forrester, we define a customer experience ecosystem as “The complex set of interdependent relationships among your company’s employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.” In the case of the above incident, the ecosystem was profoundly broken because some of the contractors had worked out that they didn’t actually have to deliver their packages (or even load them in their vans!) — they just delivered the postcards and called it a day (and in many cases, they don’t even bother delivering the postcards).

But customers don’t make a distinction between contractors and AusPost employees. The contractors wear AusPost uniforms and often drive AusPost vans. We, the humble customers, don’t see the difference, and frankly don’t care.

The result of this situation? A huge amount of wasted time, frustrated customers, and AusPost employees at the depots who are trying to get their own company to do something about it. And to add costs to it: A former AusPost insider told me at a recent conference that 80 per cent of its customer complaints are about this issue, and that each call to their call centre costs AusPost an estimated $6.50.

So, the real cost of a broken customer  ecosystem? Hard costs to the company for the pleasure of annoying its very own customers.

The solution? Honestly analyse the impact of your partners in delivering your customer experience. They may not work for you, but they sure can destroy your good work.

Craig Menzies is a principal analyst at Forrester Research serving customer experience professionals. This post was first published at Forrester Blogs, republished with permission.

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