Feeling bullied... but being strong
Somewhere between starting my side project and wanting to treat more women to deliveries they could get excited about, I began running an actual real life company. I am still a Mum with a side project. But there is a need for me to make tough & sometimes ‘harmful’ decisions.
Ok well maybe it’s not what you think, but if one person can read this and decide to be kinder in their next interaction then I think the title is justified.
The last 2 months have been my toughest yet. I’ve had staff at their limit with Fastway, and I’ve had to make a decision on how to deal with that, how to lead my team through it, and how to engage in public and private discussions about the Fastway brand.
Business is not for the light hearted. I feel like you must need to be extremely tough to maintain growth long term. To aggressively pursue goals to exceed your customers expectations over and over again. To be always aware of your supply and procurement processes, your competitors, your staff, and still somehow live a balanced and stress free life.
Two months ago I got to work to find my team ‘putting out fires’. Customers had been affected all over the country, people who had been MyTreat members for over a year were suddenly unable to receive their parcels. With absolutely no explanation, the demands on our customer service team were extreme and our ability to provide answers, and effectively resolve the issues was not aided by the lacklustre approach of my freight providers. Some of my customers waited 20 days for their boxes to be delivered.
Now let me be very clear, I totally understand that the freight industry is not an easy one. This decision to move however, has been given consideration after consideration and we have really tried to keep our business local. Perhaps my longer term customers might recall our April delivery issues. We took the parcels to the depot on Tuesday, and on Friday they were still there. I addressed this issue the way I always try to, I tried to work out how things can be done better. I (politely) communicated at length with the management team (who swiftly changed), and was introduced to the new team who were all about being the new best thing. I was weary, but after meeting them, seeing significant improvements in their processes and moving to a depot more suited to their requirements I was willing to give it a shot.
To make the decision to stay after April, and have to face my team when they are at their limit based on very similar circumstances, made me feel like a shitty boss, and for my customers, a shitty service provider. This is where a business advisor probably would have helped me. I made the decision to stay, based on the emotional desire to feel good about supporting a local business. I should have made the decision based purely on what is best for my customers and staff.
During this time, I also started discussions with NZ Post. I thought that in case I do need an option, these guys would be my best bet. The only problem was the 5 day delay in IT support, and the fact I felt like we were going from one smaller company where I could call the IT guys mobile number, to a company with a massive team of ‘customer service’ staff, which indicated we would struggle to get the responsiveness needed when issues did occur.
With hundreds of packages being delivered to me each month, I started to pick up some trends. I got to know the local teams, the various approaches of customer service staff, the functions of courier company websites, and the level of service support provided. I have had months to prepare me, but still this decision has left me feeling deflated, disappointed, and really disheartened.
After confirming our move, I received short, sharp emails from Fastway, there seemed to be no consideration on their behalf of the extreme risk I took in continuing to support them, just harsh, rude responses. I then contacted the NZ Post guy out of courtesy to let him know we had made the move to PBT. His response included: “Crickey. Best of luck. You customers will need it.“
It’s probably fine to get this type of harsh communication if you’re a really strong business person, with a team of advisors, and years of experience with negotiating. But I am not. I am a Mum, who grew her company to the point where I am forced to make the decision to take my business in a different direction, I am forced to take the feedback from my customers and staff very seriously, and I’m forced to get out of bed regardless of how I feel and face every day, because even when people are disrespectful, rude and set out to make me feel bad, I have an important job to do.
The only thing I can say without a doubt is that delivering these treats is my priority, so that the Mum who has been spoken down to at daycare gets her treats. So the woman who works alongside some real hard-arses, gets her treats. So that the lady down the road who doesn’t get many gifts in her life gets her treats.
If you are a woman trying your god damn best, and still come up against it, I am in business for you. I am here to let you know that we deserve to look after ourselves, and we just have to back our decisions and it’s totally OK learn as we go.
If you are someone who is unhappy, or stressed out, and choose to communicate in a way that is not productive but instead makes people feel bad, please remember the golden rule. Treat people how you would like to be treated.
As someone with a lot of experience in customer service, I’ve come to understand that we all just want to be heard. We all just want to get what we pay for, and we all want to have positive relationships with people around us.
Thank you to my customers who give me the motivation to make the tough calls needed. Thank you to my team for your ongoing support and dedication. Thank you to my amazing suppliers, a lot of who are also growing their businesses and trying their best, and thank you to every reasonable person out there, for making this world a kinder place.