I’m writing this from a flight to Mexico where I will take on my second full Ironman triathlon. I do so without my tri kit, the little outfit we wear for all three disciplines – swim, bike and run. I ordered the kit from Love The Pain, which as far as I can tell, produces the coolest looking triathlon and cycling gear available. The expensive price tag of $400 would make you think that Love The Pain would have amazing customer service, especially since their product is used for specific events on exact dates. My experience with the company was anything but awesome and should be used as a teachable moment for all entrepreneurs during these “uncertain times.”
It is true that businesses around the world are facing both staffing shortages and supply chain issues due to the Covid pandemic, or rather, government’s horrible reaction to the pandemic. While this is a criticism of the US government, it’s not one of our government alone. Nations around the world have shut down factories, creating a global supply chain issue. Here in America we have passed out money for people not to work, making many to retire early and others left asking “why work at all?” As the co-owner of a brewery, I can tell you that I have directly felt both the supply chain and staffing issues in our business.
These challenges give business owners a choice. They can make excuses or they can step up and deliver exceptional service. No, scratch that. In 2021 businesses don’t even need to deliver exceptional service. They just need to do the basics and deliver the expected service. They just have to do the bare minimum.
The bare minimum isn’t something a business should strive for, but it highlights how horrible customer service has become across many verticals. Turn on the news for 30 minutes today and you will hear that Thanksgiving dinner will cost more than ever and you better have already ordered your Christmas gifts because they will likely be stuck on ships for weeks. The situation is no better locally when you try to go out for dinner or order an Uber. Everything takes longer. Everything is more expensive, if you can get it at all.
And because it’s so bad, entrepreneurs have an opportunity to succeed that they may never get again. Customers are so frustrated that have become exceptionally happy to just receive what they are promised. Some things will be out of a business owners control. They can’t create supplies in a Star Trek style replicator and those robots we’ve been promised for decades aren’t here yet to cook your food. That means business owners have to deliver exceptional service where they can.
Back to my story. I ordered my tri kit six weeks ago with the understanding, because of warnings on their website, that orders were taking about two weeks longer than normal. Two weeks ago I received the bottom half of my kit. I didn’t freak out. Last week I contacted the company and explained that I was leaving for my event on the 18th. They said “your order is done and should arrive on time.”
Friday I still had not received my kit top so I contacted them again asking if I could pay to have it overnighted. You would think that would be something they would offer me. Nope, that was my idea after they offered absolutely no horrible solution. I literally messaged them “what do I have to pay to get this done.” They responded “contact us on Monday and we will see.” Yeah, “we will see” isn’t quite the service I was expecting.
So I contacted them Monday and they said if I paid $150 they would ensure it’s done and overnighted. I paid, putting my total for a triathlon kit to $550. Crazy, right. I expected the kit to be sent to USPS, FedEx or UPS the next morning. I heard nothing on Tuesday. I woke up Wednesday with an alert that the kit was shipped overnight but dropped off after the overnight cutoff time on Tuesday. That means I wouldn’t receive the kit until Thursday, after I leave for Mexico.
I contacted Love The Pain yesterday and politely told them that they dropped the ball. They responded “Thank you but we are doing great. Staffing shortages and supply chain issues can’t be avoided.” I agreed, so I responded “I simply expect you to do what you said you would do.”
The Covid pandemic has created a problem, a big problem. It has given companies like Love The Pain an excuse to deliver shitty service. All a company has to do is say “Covid” and we are expected to understand. In this case, the kit was produced and sitting in their shop. They simply didn’t put it in the mail even after I paid $150. This isn’t a supply chain or a staffing shortage. This was a work ethic issue. This was a dropped ball, a failure to deliver on a promise.
While Love The Pain did screw me over, I should take part of the blame. I should have researched the company more. Had I done so I would have seen the hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau. I guess I’m just not used to having to research companies. I just expect them to do what they say they’re going to do.
Don’t let that be you. If your business has been impacted by Covid, just be honest with your customers. But be totally honest. Tell them how you can help them. Go above and beyond to help them. Then just deliver on your promises. That’s it. People will understand, especially when you voice that you too are frustrated. Just don’t be that business, like so many businesses right now, that are just using Covid as an excuse to be lazy. Instead use Covid as an opportunity. If everyone else is sucking, all you have to do is not suck. It’s a low bar, but that’s where we are in 2021.