'Karens' shine spotlight on a fleet's customer service

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Updated May 2, 2022

By now, everyone should be familiar with the "Karen" internet meme. Basically anyone – man or woman – with a bad, "let me speak to the manager" attitude can be a Karen. 

Karens can be set off by a number of things – from a lukewarm caffè latte to something marked 50% off ringing up full price – but few things spark a full-blown Karen episode like bungled shipping of an online purchase. 

Research conducted by FarEye, a global last-mile logistics SaaS platform provider, found that superior delivery experiences are essential to satisfy and retain online shoppers, and could make-or-break consumer loyalty. Delivery delays and poor communication contribute most to bad delivery experiences, and 36.8% of consumers changed their opinion of a brand due to a bad experience. Almost 40% (38.9%) of shoppers say they are unlikely to give retailers a second chance after a poor delivery experience.

The pandemic shifted shopping habits and delivery expectations. Throughout the pandemic, according to FarEye, real-time communication expectations increased as 25% of customers expect access to real-time tracking information and up-to-date order location notifications throughout the order-to-delivery experience.

When we were all locked in the house in 2020 and local stores were COVID-closed, we didn't have much else to do other than upgrade our interiors with stuff off Amazon and watch UPS or FedEx tracking like an FBI surveillance team. As pandemic restrictions have lifted in the majority of the country, 30% of consumers intend to do most of their shopping in-person, FarEye found. However, another 32% of consumer survey respondents reported shopping online more since the pandemic and 65% of online shoppers reported preferring home delivery over store pick-up – indicators of a sustained shift toward online shopping and at-home delivery.

I'm one of these people. Like countless others, I took the opportunity that COVID house arrest afforded to do some work inside my home. When it came to buying furniture, I just couldn't make myself go to the furniture store, so I fired up Amazon. I bought an entire room's worth of furniture from my phone, and within a week it was on my door-step. 

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“At-home deliveries are the new competitive battlefield for brands and retailers. As e-commerce continues to boom, customers are mandating the buying experience includes superior at-home deliveries,” said FarEye Chief Marketing Officer Judd Marcello. “Our survey emphasized the need for retailers to see deliveries as a key differentiator in their offering and critical to creating satisfied, loyal customers.”

This increasingly makes motor carriers an extension of a shipper's customer service. One of the furniture items I ordered was scratched when I took it out of the box. There was a corresponding gash in the box, so the most likely explanation was that the carrier dropped something on it, but that's not the first place my mind went. "They should have done a better job packing this desk," I thought, refusing to acknowledge that the desk was probably adequately packed and protected for a more friendly shipping experience. 

Noteworthy: I didn't go full-Karen. The scratch was on a computer desk so I simply turned it so that the scratch was covered by the base of the monitor. But still, I blamed the shipper for what was almost certainly a problem with the carrier. 

In the current freight environment, on-time delivery (consistent on-time delivery, anyway) is increasingly important. That's always been a cornerstone in this industry, and there's no shortage of fleets ready to point out all the delivery failures of their competitors to conquest new contract business. For final mile players, this is exponentially more important.

Trucking is a relationship business, and traditional truckload or LTL customers can be forgiving on an occasional botched drop, but their tolerance for it is shrinking – even on the longest shipper/carrier partnerships. 

Karen wants his/her refrigerator on-time and scratch-and-dent-free. If both of those conditions aren't met, your driver is going to hear about it, and so will your shipper customer. With a 40% chance the shipper just lost a customer forever, the odds are high that the fleet will lose that shipper customer, too.

delivery expectations infographic

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]