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Tampering masks true performance

Last week, I placed an order for a case of wine that shipped via FedEx Home Delivery® on Nov. 25th. On Nov. 28th I received a text from FedEx informing me that my delivery was scheduled for the following day, Nov. 29th. The text stated that ID and signature would be required. Though I had plans with my son to pick up his girlfriend at the airport and drive them to their college campus, as the late morning stretched into early afternoon, I made other arrangements to ensure I would be at home to sign for the wine.

After not receiving the shipment by 7:20pm, I checked the FedEx tracking app. To my surprise, the app claimed that a delivery attempt was made at 7:08pm. I thought to myself, how could that be? My wife was making quesadillas in the kitchen, there were three people at home, our doorbell is quite loud, and we have a Goldendoodle with spidey senses whose bark is even louder than the doorbell. On top of that, we have security cameras. I immediately checked the cameras. No FedEx driver attempted a delivery at my house at 7:08pm on Nov. 29th. When I called the 800 number, after confirming FedEx had the correct address, I asked the rep for an explanation. He could only apologize and offer to share my experience with the Englewood delivery station.

The following day, Nov. 30th, I checked the app and saw that delivery was scheduled for that day. Later, when I checked the app, it said to expect delivery on Dec. 1st and included the explanation, “Future delivery requested.” Not true. At no time did I request a future delivery date. I expected my wine to be delivered on Nov. 29th – the date FedEx informed me to expect it to arrive. Even so, after falsifying an attempted delivery on Nov. 29th, FedEx arbitrarily selected Dec 1st as the new delivery date and attributed that decision to me.

The next day, Dec. 1st, I checked the app again and it said the delivery had been moved to Dec. 2nd. Huh? The package arrived at the FedEx facility 25 minutes from my house three days earlier. By now, I was exasperated. My freedom to come and go throughout the day is limited when FedEx says delivery can take place any time between 9am-8pm. (Heck, even my cable company can give me a 2-hr window for service appointments.) To my surprise, the wine arrived at 5:10pm on Dec. 1st. This time, the doorbell rang, the dog barked, and the delivery was captured by the front door camera. In an ironic twist, the delivery driver was back in his vehicle when I opened the front door. Apparently, ID and signature for wine delivery are optional after all.

Given my experience, you can imagine my dismay while reading an article in the Dec. 3rd Wall Street Journal (referenced here) that revealed FedEx, in 97.6% of cases, delivered packages on-time during the week of Thanksgiving 2020. This figure was based on recent data collected by analysts at Citi. A second firm that also analyzes shipping data, ShipMatrix Inc., determined that FedEx picked up 95.4% of packages on the day they were ready for shipment between Nov. 15th – 21st, 2020. These percentages would be impressive if they were accurate.

The longstanding computer science term, GIGO (short for garbage in, garbage out) is the concept that flawed, or nonsense data produces nonsense output or “garbage.” When employees misrepresent performance by knowingly inputting false data, it produces misleading performance metrics. This is oftentimes done in order to posture: to give the appearance – especially internally – of exceptional performance. Other times, it’s done to hit targets that release bonuses or other incentives. This is why, when structuring incentive programs, it’s important to not unwittingly create an environment that rewards tampering.

Falsifying data entries in order to inflate performance metrics is enanthema to serving customers. Do you see the irony in the above illustration? According to FedEx’s erroneous data, an on-time delivery attempt was made at my home on Nov. 29thso the late delivery was excused, artificially bolstering the on-time delivery percentage. Even while its on-time delivery performance – as trumpeted in the WSJ – appears impressive, customer service and financial metrics can suffer. In my case, if I were to receive a customer satisfaction survey pertaining to this experience, I will give FedEx deservedly low marks. And after I made the wine merchant (FedEx’s commercial client) aware of the debacle, the shipping fee was refunded. This cost FedEx $62.

In the short term, you might be able to mask poor performance by falsifying data entries. But over time, customer feedback and financial results will tell the real story.

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