Generally what goes wrong is the stuff you’ve underestimated and haven’t prepared properly for. I’m often amazed by how much careful planning is wasted when things run like the proverbial Swiss watch.
In a previous blog I mentioned I had once worked for a company called Auckland Mailing Service. We had some great successes. We also had a few wide-eyed “whoopses”.
Here’s a goodie.
One of our clients was a major trading bank. It had a Christmas Club saving scheme that many of its clients paid into over the course of a year. Just prior to the holiday season, those clients were sent a statement outlining the extent of their savings plus interest that they could uplift and spend on festive fare.
What we were asked to put in the post was technically demanding for our inserting machines. For some reason the paper slips used for the statements were thin. This meant that the machines’ vacuum-powered suckers that grabbed each piece of paper could grasp more than one. After a lot of fiddling and finessing, and careful observation, I reckoned we had the problem sorted.
The bank had given us an item count. It was in excess of 50,000 items. At the end of the job the counter on our machine was two short of that. Given that it was a mechanical counter tripped by each finished envelope that went past, I put that error down to the lighter-than-usual package not fully engaging the counter. I had seen that happen on other jobs, so satisfied myself with that explanation. Wrong.
The following morning I got a phone call from the bank in question. It wasn’t them ringing to thank us for completing their tricky job speedily. Oh no. It was a bit more irate than that. The chief executive and his PA had both received their Christmas Club statements in the morning’s mail. Each had somebody else’s statement included with theirs. The CEO wanted to talk with me, urgently. He had surmised that this was a widespread problem and wanted to know the exact extent of it. He was also a bit bothered about privacy of client information and all that sort of stuff.
Immediately I knew exactly what had happened to the previous day’s counter issue. But I also knew that I was about to participate in a most interesting meeting with a very irate client.
Thank goodness for good record keeping! We didn’t lose the bank’s business but they were justifiably gun-shy from that point forward, proving that other law which says it takes a long time to build a reputation that can be destroyed in an instant.