Four Hour Windows Suck

I’ll just have to admit up front that I hate it when companies give you a “four hour window” for a service appointment or a delivery.  I suppose it’s a small improvement over the way it used to be when they gave you a whole day to spend cooling your heels waiting on a call (and woe betide the person who missed that call).  This is directly related to the fact that I cannot recall *EVER* having any company actually show up during the window (either all day or ‘four hours’).

Yesterday I was scheduled to take delivery of a new electric range from Home Depot.  On Sunday an automated system called me to tell me that my window would be between noon and 4:00pm.  Frankly, the tone of the call left me cold, as it actually said that this was “not changeable” (although you could call to schedule another day).  So, basically, they’re telling you they reserve the right to waste at least four hours of your time, if not more and your only choice is what day it happens on.  This did not sit well with me.  If someone at Home Depot actually cares about the customer experience they could at least find someone else to record the message or perhaps find a way to script it differently.  It comes off as rude.

So… I began waiting at noon yesterday.   By 3:00pm I was still waiting and I was thinking about calling them to see what the problem was (the previous call specified that I would get a call between one hour and 30 minutes before delivery, so they’re starting to get into the ‘critical’ period where they will miss the delivery window).  At 3:02pm (per Caller ID) I got an automated call to tell me that the delivery team was on the way and would be here in approximately 30 minutes.  At 3:42pm I got a call from the delivery team to tell me they had started on their way and that it would take them 30-45 minutes to arrive, depending on traffic.  You will note that this is 40 minutes after the automated system told me they would have been here.   They finally arrived at approximately 4:15pm.

Once they arrived they were courteous, efficient, and friendly, and they had the new range installed and operational in about 15 minutes.  They told me that they had gotten hung up on a previous job installing a dish washer.

Once they were done there was a survey to fill out.  It was very short, but I was told that if I rated them a 9 (on a scale of 1-10) on anything that they got punished (I think he said they would lose a work day or something like that).  I was a bit wary of that explanation (thinking maybe he’s trying to deflect me from dinging him on the survey for being late), yet I know that some idiotic processes end up treating people that way (viz eBay’s seller ratings*).   He didn’t have much to worry about, as most of the survey was about their actions and didn’t cover the problem of bad information being passed to me by Home Depot on the phone.

And that, frankly, was the main reason I was angry about the whole experience.  I understand that sometimes things take longer than expected.  But the most important part of that is managing customer expectations.  Don’t call me and tell me that it’ll be 30 minutes when the delivery team hasn’t even left the previous location yet.

Before I end there is one further irritant in the process, though, that I will comment on.  The last call that I got from Home Depot (the ’30 minute’ call) also told me to ‘put away’ any dogs or cats.  That irritated the living hell out of me.  As a general rule, I do not ‘put away’ the dogs for anyone.  This is their home.  Anyone coming here needs to understand that (and as a general rule, delivery people should be pet aware).  In fact, I almost sent my cleaning crew away last week when one of them suggested I put the dogs outside because the new person was afraid of dogs.  It clearly states on my record with the cleaning company that I have dogs.  They shouldn’t have sent a phobic person.  But I digress…  this is about Home Depot.

So… what could Home Depot have done better (staying within the ‘four hour’ rule)?  First, they could have made the initial contact less confrontational by recording a less rude message.  Second, they could have coordinated the actual arrival time of the delivery team with the automated phone message so that I wouldn’t have been expecting them earlier.  Third, they can be less rude about pets in their phone messaging.

But the above presupposes that the ‘four hour window’ is a valid way to do business.  I have come to conclude that the ‘four hour window’ is a terrible way to do business, because everyone knows that they won’t be there when they say they will and we end up wasting hours waiting.  Someone at Home Depot needs to put the logistics boffins into a room and lock them there until they come up with a viable delivery model.

* If you’ve bought anything from eBay in the past couple of years, you probably know that if you rate a seller anything less than 5 stars on any of the extended questions that the seller ends up being punished with higher listing fees.

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