In this short article, I share one story of what a great Quality Assurance professional can do.
When Cindy – the Quality Assurance professional in our Contact Centre – walked into my office, she looked concerned.
“Dan, we just heard the weirdest call. You know that new wooden sandbox set we’re selling? The one that ships in from the UK?”
“Sure Cindy – I know the one – it’s quite fancy but it looks great for kids. Why?”
“Well the Customer just received her shipment from the UK and she says it’s defective. That the sandbox has no bottom in it.”
“No bottom in the sandbox? What do you mean?”
“You know. A base in it. A floor for lack of a better word. The Customer says that it looks like you fill the sandbox by pouring the sand directly onto the ground.”
We looked at each other for a moment. Don’t all sandboxes have bottoms?
“Cindy thanks for telling me. Let me call Marketing and see what the story is.”
A bit of background
In the 90s I was VP, Contact Centre & Distribution Operations for a Los Angeles based direct marketing company that served the entire country.
Our Centre took orders from TV ads and catalogues for products including CDs, children’s toys, gardening tools and more. And our warehouses would ship most Customer orders – unless the product was to be shipped directly from the manufacturer.
We also handled all the Customer Service questions and issues. It was a big business and was growing year on year.
And Quality Assurance really mattered to us. Because it was an important measure of success that we earn repeat orders from Customers over time. And our Quality Assurance professionals helped us to do that.
The sandbox in question was an item in the Spring Gardening catalogue that had gone out to Customers across the US.
It was handmade in the UK and crafted from high quality wood.
But the best part was that it had a roll up/roll down wooden roof that not only protected the sand – it made the sandbox feel like a small castle for the kids.
It cost over US$1,000 (plus shipping) and due to its size, orders were shipped directly from the UK to the Customer in the US.
We didn’t have any sandboxes in our own stock. Which meant that unlike a lot of our other products, we had not seen one in real life.
So the mystery remained – why didn’t the sandbox have a bottom?
What Marketing told us
Our Marketing Team was great. And they got back to us quickly.
It seems that having a bottom in the sandbox was an ‘American’ thing. A Customer expectation built around hygiene and what American Customers were used to.
Whereas in the UK, sandboxes typically didn’t have bottoms in them. You simply poured the sand on top of the ground or whatever the surface was below where you placed the sandbox.
A simple cultural difference that resulted in a different set of expectations.
What we did
Well thanks to Cindy – and the weird call – we were on it.
About 29 sandboxes had been ordered with a 3 – 4 week delivery timeframe. Remember it was the 1990s – there was no such thing as Prime!
So that gave us the chance to contact all the Customers who had ordered the sandbox, explain the manufacturing aspect and allow the Customer to cancel the order – or keep the order with a discount applied – their choice.
And it worked. In fact most Customers decided to keep the sandbox. And they appreciated our proactivity.
We tend to underestimate the power of the Quality Assurance job role
In my training & consulting work I find that the Quality Assurance job role tends to be underestimated. By that I mean it’s used (and viewed) as a policing function for Agents. Low level and unpopular.
And that’s so sad. Because the potential value inherent in the Quality Assurance job role is tremendous.
In this story, Cindy acted as a ‘lighthouse’ for quality issues. Coming and telling me – and others – about weird calls was an important part of her job. Because Cindy innately understood that her job was about a lot more than checking if an Agent said the Customer’s name 3x.
She and her Team helped our Centre understand where we were with regard to Quality, where we wanted to go – and how to get there.
And I’ve told this story now for nearly 25 years because it had such a profound impact on me – both at the time and today.
Thank you Cindy.
And thank you for reading!