Wish me luck….

I’m going to need it. On Monday I’m going in.

I’m feeling like the pilot of a WWII bomber the day before a big mission. Resistance is expected to be high and I can picture the barrage of the anti-aircraft flack guns all aiming to inflict a critical wound. My job is to keep cool and fly at a level altitude just long enough to get the job done and then scram for the safety of home.

Why is all this… well, the reason is flowers! Not bombs, but flowers. Today as we all know is Mother’s Day. For one of our clients this is their busiest time of year by a long way. For the past two weeks the call centre has been at bursting point taking orders for flowers to be delivered to mum’s up and down the land. Call, after call, after call without pausing for breath we’ve been taking these orders, but our best efforts never seemed enough to meet demand and the phones just kept ringing.  In desperation management even found themselves press-ganging people into agreeing to do as many extra-shifts to within a hair’s breadth of the point at which their work-life balance would buckle under the strain.

If we have a problem coping with demand over two weeks, the warehouse dispatching the flowers has an even bigger one. As everyone obviously chooses the same dispatch day the job of the warehouse is to get out the orders we have been taking solidly for two weeks, plus all the web orders and the mail orders and to do this all in the space of a couple of days.

In short it’s the rush-hour from hell. It’s almost as if half the population suddenly decided to go to London on the same day at the very same time. Very soon the system, used to a much lower level of demand would creak, groan and then rapidly collapse into a spiral of chaos. Even if the demand could be anticipated in advance it is an extremely difficult thing to boost capacity from normal levels by such a degree and to still maintain the quality of the service, not least because you will be relying on inexperienced and dare I say less committed staff to deliver the service. Thanks to the wonders of outsourcing I’ve never seen the warehouse, so can’t say at first hand just how they get on, but I do know they struggle to cope with the volume as I deal with the fall-out; some of which began at the tail-end of last week when overwhelmed by demand (as they are every year) a decision was made to start sending orders out early.

We love our Mum’s; if not enough to jump in the car and go to see them on Mother’s Day then at least enough to send some flowers. If those flowers don’t arrive or arrive in a rather sorry state then people get angry, very, very angry. If lots of people get angry they have to wait their turn, listening to some piped greensleeves, whilst being told by an un-feeling automaton that their call is important then their anger levels can shoot off the scale.

This is the curtain of flack I will be flying into on Monday. My job is to keep my cool, to not let the shouts and the screams jolt me off course, and most importantly to return home safely intact as I’ve never much cared for hitting targets.

Wish me luck.


3 thoughts on “Wish me luck….

  1. I do wish you good luck!

    It must be very hard to politely explain the problem, which of course the customer doesn’t care about. They made an order and “you” didn’t deliver, or not correctly, or not in time. Maybe you can point out in between the lines how lucky they are still to have a mother? 🙂

    BTW, it’s “mums”, not “mum’s”. {spelling police}

  2. Thanks. Just to update I managed to make it through the day mostly unscathed! Only had one really difficult customer who wasn’t happy with just a full refund and tried to hang on the line for a manager – something I call ‘the call centre game.’

    I think the trick is to just avoid discussing the problem at all with the customer, or actually even offering an explanation as this opens up routes of dialogue which can be bad. For instance If I say ‘we did dispatch it, but it seems the post office didn’t deliver it’ then the customer then has the option of acceppting this, but equally they may reject it, or insist that we have not taken enough steps to avoid it. By cutting this stage out I remove this option, so instead just go for listen – apology – solution.

    I think it’s natural to want to give an explanation, but leaving it out and heading straight for the apology seems to me to be a lot more effective.

  3. Glad it went OK for you. Just one angry customer is good going. Maybe in the end more flowers were delivered correctly and timely than you expected?

    You’re right about not giving an explanation. I see why that isn’t a good idea. Going straight to an apology and then a solution that the customer is happy with, sounds like the best thing to do.

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