I used to go to work by bicycle, and there was a bicycle shop on the way. Sometimes I stopped to inflate the tires or make other fixes. “Do you have bells?” “Oh, I’m out of bells. I’ll have on Thursday.”
On Thursday I stopped again. “I still don’t have bells. I’ll have them on Tuesday.” He didn’t have them on Tuesday either.
I thought that this was an example of a bad businessman. He appeared as if he had no clue what’s going on. How is it possible, I thought, that he doesn’t know when he’ll have bells?
Sometime later I went to my first logistics conference. I realized that not only was it normal that he didn’t know when the bells would arrive, but that no-one actually knew where the bell shipment was.
To the logistics professional, it’s obvious that the location of a shipment can be unknown. It’s actually the most probable case, unless you take a series of expensive steps to ensure the opposite. But to uninitiated customers, it’s obvious that you should know where the shipment is. Since they haven’t pondered on how a shipment is made or what the transporting process is, they may be thinking along the lines of “it’s your shipment, so how is it possible you don’t know where it is?”
Here’s some things the bicycle guy could have done better:
- He should not have pretended he knows, or voiced his wish as a fact. He should have admitted he’s clueless.
- He could have explained. “It’s possible I’ll have bells on Thursday, but shipments are like mail—when it’s on the way no-one can tell you where it is.” While customers often don’t care about your problems, you have a better chance of being forgiven compared to “I’ll have bells on Thursday”.
- He could have used a better, more expensive logistics service.