I had the occasion to the write the following letter to the CEO of Ashley Furniture and a couple of the principals at the local Ashley Furniture. Given the challenging nature of communicating with Ashley, I’m not sure my letter will ever be read (the fax number published for the local store doesn’t work–in fact the local store doesn’t even have a fax machine! Stop trying to fax in those furniture orders for quick pickup!). I’m publishing it here as on open letter to those at Ashley and to help others think critically about furniture purchases. There were several folks at Ashley who did a great job for us and for their efforts we are deeply grateful. The names of the principals have been changed (to the real names of rock and roll stars).
My wife and I experienced a comedy of Ashley Furniture errors yesterday and last night. On Friday, March 27, we ordered nearly $n worth of furniture from Antoine Domino at a San Antonio store. He was courteous and helpful. The furniture we purchased would need to be delivered in three stages. The important thing to us was getting the bed ASAP and Antoine promised us that our bed frame, box springs, mattress, and mattress pad would be delivered March 31 (yesterday) between 8:30 am and 11:30 am. Antoine confirmed this delivery for us again before we left the store.
About 10:15 on March 31 only the bed frame was delivered. The driver said we should have received a call telling us the mattress and box springs wouldn’t be shipped. He made a call to customer care, in front of my wife, to find out what the problem was and when we’d get the mattress. At one point, he asked the person, Priscilla, on the other end of the line if she wanted to talk to my wife. You should tell Priscilla that she shouldn’t be afraid to talk to customers—she wanted no part of speaking to my wife. Given the comments made, it seems as though your delivery crews are often the bearer of bad news and their support team is good at letting them sweat out the painful face-to-face parts of a broken promise.
Confusion reigned and my wife called the store. Antoine Domino was out of the office so my wife asked to speak to the manager. The lady on the phone with her (we didn’t get her name) wasn’t too quick to jump to that request until my wife mentioned that otherwise we’d like to cancel our nearly $n order. At that, she was patched through to Eugene Dixon. He was going to call her back with more information—but it was starting to appear like we needed face-to-face contact to find out if we were going to get our mattress and box springs as promised.
I drove 30 minutes to the store and talked to Eugene in person—whom had not yet returned my wife’s call. After about 40 minutes of waiting as phone calls were being made, I left the store with Eugene being “cautiously optimistic” that we’d receive our mattress and box springs by 9pm. The last thing I said when I left the store was, “Let’s be clear, mattress and box springs, right?” Eugene and Pauline (the person having done most of the phone research while I was there) confirmed that was correct. Pauline, by the way, never cracked a smile and regarded me only with dead shark eyes the whole time. At no time did I speak in anger, raise my voice, and otherwise exhibit ugly behavior.
At 7:30 so our cautious optimism was rewarded when an Ashley truck arrived and three young men unloaded the two box springs and the mattress pad. Our happiness quickly disappeared when the young men told us there was no mattress on the truck. The mistake wasn’t their fault and I wanted my anger correctly placed. I tipped the three kids $20 and told them to buy a cold drink on me.
I called the store and talked, briefly, to Gloria. I wanted to ensure that yet another truck was on the road somewhere with our mattress in it for delivery that night. My call with Gloria produced nothing like results (you really need to get her some telephone courtesy and manners training) and I called Ashley Customer Care directly and listened to the recorded, hollow claims about how invested Ashley Furniture is in its customers’ happiness for about 15 minutes. Finally, Jan answered my call. For pretty much the first time all day long, an Ashley employee was able to convey a sense of responsibility and empathy for the situation. Jan checked into things professionally and asked me to hang on while she dug for more details. Alas, our call was disconnected.
I called Customer Care back and again listened to the recorded, hollow claims about how invested Ashley Furniture is in its customers’ happiness—for about 10 minutes. This time I spoke to Eleanora. Jan was apparently busy with something else so I started over with Eleanora. Like Jan, she was professional, attentive, and sympathetic to our problem. It was very clear that our order was in utter confusion. At first, Eleanora’s paperwork indicated we got the mattress but didn’t get the box springs. Then she found something to indicate someone had marked out shipping the mattress last night because we had already received it. Eleanora ended the call by, very apologetically, telling me that there wasn’t another truck coming and we wouldn’t be receiving our mattress anytime that night.
Having been fighting this since 8:30am, we were pretty much over Ashley Furniture. Then, about 9pm a mysterious thing happened—Harry Casey, apparently working out of the New Braunfels warehouse, called my wife and said he was going to do his best to try to find a team to deliver our mattress yet that evening.
With a measure of optimism and the kids asleep, we poured ourselves a glass of wine, watched Better Call Saul and put out our of heads the notion that if Harry didn’t deliver we didn’t have any place to sleep.
Sometime around 10pm or a little later, we got the call that George was 20 minutes out with our mattress. Sure enough, George and another man brought us our mattress and capably muscled it up the stairs and onto the bed and box springs. My wife and I were very grateful. I tipped them each 20 bucks for their efforts. We were pretty sure they were going above and beyond for us and we greatly appreciated it.
Nearly 12 hours after the promised delivery time, and tons of confusion and frustration we had a place to sleep.
I would like Eugene Dixon (you know who you are, “Eugene Dixon”!) to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with absolute, firm delivery dates and times for the two lamps and red sectional couch (currently promised for Tuesday, April 7th) and the gray recliner, red chaise and red ottoman (currently promised for Tuesday April 28th) remaining on the order. We don’t want to wait 12 hours each time we expect an Ashley delivery and we’d like no unpleasant surprises on the rest of our order.
I am out $60 for late night delivery tips. I’d like to have that $60 back. And, if you have any empathy for our frustrations at all, I’d like to have my entire delivery fee back—for the bed and table delivered on Tuesday and for the upcoming two deliveries scheduled. I know you aren’t obligated to return any deliver money to us. It’s up to you. Weigh the value of our future business against that delivery charge. We do intend to buy more furniture soon. Somewhere.
At the end of this fiasco, there were heroes. I am nearly certain that it was either Jan or Eleanora’s efforts that got the message to Harry that something was woefully incorrect with our order. And Harry was able to find two young men willing to go above and beyond to finally fulfill our delivery. Our deepest thanks to Jan, Eleanora, Harry, George and, I apologize for not getting his name, the man helping George deliver the mattress. You should do something nice for them, too.
Given the size and resources of Ashley Furniture, you surely have better consultants and counselors than I could ever be. But, for what it’s worth:
- Make it easier to contact someone by voice when something is wrong with an order. Your Twitter account seemed concerned but produced no results.
- Teach your employees that what hangs in the balance isn’t just another delivery; it’s probably the most important thing to the customer that day.
- Train telephone staff to be courteous and responsive.
- Give your truck drivers a break and ensure that the customer gets bad news (because it will happen from time to time) well before the truck driver arrives.
- Have management be proactive with ensuring things are going, or went, well (I hoped for a call from Ashely Furniture this morning to see how things went last night—alas no such call was received).
- And finally, because I strongly suspect that others have said similar things to you, insist that top management start listening!