Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Welcome to Walgreens:
30 minutes here, 30 hours there.

Thanks for your patience.
I've been patronizing my local Walgreens (Store #: 6656) for the better part of a year. It's the people that work there who really make a difference. From the cashiers that always greet me when I walk in to the photo processing employees who provide stellar service with my photos, books, greeting cards, and canvas prints. I've been to a couple other Walgreens in the San Diego area and they seem on par with my local store.

Yesterday, I discovered that customer service is a different story on Long Island.

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. I decided to print a custom card for her and have my sister pick it up. Instead of a 30 minute process it took 30 hours.

Yesterday, I uploaded the card and immediately received an order confirmation e-mail with an estimated completion time of about 45 minutes. A couple hours later I knew there was a problem when I hadn't received the confirmation e-mail that the greeting card had been printed. I called the Walgreens on Long Island and, after getting bounced between a couple departments, I finally spoke with an employee in the photo processing department. He told me, "We're printing them now." Ok, thanks, I told him – let me add that each person I spoke to had zero enthusiasm. But I still had a feeling things weren't going to work out well. This hunch comes from growing up on Long Island.

Two hours later I called back when I still hadn't received a confirmation that my greeting card had been printed. Once again I was bounced between a couple departments before getting a women in the photo processing department.

"Hi, I'm calling to check on the status of my photo order," I said.

"Our photo machine is down," replied the woman.

"Actually, it's not a photo. It's a greeting card," I said.

"Hold on," she said.

I was back on hold for a few minutes.

"This is Carl. How can I help you?" asked the manager.

"Hi Carl. I'm calling to check on the status of a greeting card that's being printed at your store," I said.

"We're out of paper. If we find any paper we'll call you back," said Carl.

I called my sister to tell her not to stop by Walgreens just yet.

About an hour later my sister texted me that she had received a call from the manager. Carl left a voicemail explaining that they couldn't process our order since they couldn't find any paper. End of message.

I called the Walgreens corporate customer service number and explained that my original Walgreens of choice was out of paper – I asked if the order could be changed to another Walgreens.

"Sure, no problem," said Rick at Walgreens's corporate call center.

Less than an hour later I received a print confirmation e-mail from the new Walgreens. One thing I've learned about Walgreens is that these confirmation e-mails are automatically generated when the order is printed. I've submitted orders while standing in the store and received my confirmation e-mail at the exact moment it was printed. It's a great system. In this case, a confirmation e-mail was also sent to my sister since I listed her as the person picking up my order:
Joe Moreno sent you a photo order that is ready for pickup at the Walgreens location shown below.
They are FREE of charge to you and are available for pickup under your name. Joe Moreno will be charged when you pick them up.
Please print and bring this email to this store. It will help us locate your order faster.
The final, unfolded, product, delivered.

Fast forward to today when my sister stopped by the new Walgreens to pickup our order. She texted me, "At Walgreens and they can't find them. They're looking."

Relax. Inhale. Hold it. Exhale.

I called my sister while she waited. She told me that she showed the confirmation e-mail to the employee but they still couldn't find the order. "I'll let you know what happens. Stay by the phone," she said as we hung up.

A few minutes later she texted me, "Got them!" She also sent me a couple photos of the card followed by, "Then they wanted me to pay." She had to explain that I, not her, should be charged. My sister sent me one final text message, "The guy told me it should have been folded, that's why he he couldn't find them."

Mission accomplished!

That wasn't so hard, was it?

What's the Point?

I belong to a business book club that brings in the authors for our monthly meeting. This gives us, the readers, some hidden insight including the story behind the story. Earlier this year, our book choice was Service Failure. This book highlights a key concept that I love which is to simply take a customer to complete satisfaction without passing the buck. The key, much like Apple or Nordstrom, is that leadership starts at the top. Outstanding customer service has to be in the DNA of the organization.

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