Cloudwater Brew Co. show how to respond when things go dramatically wrong

Credit: Cloudwater Brew Co.

Cloudwater Brew Co are a Manchester-based brewery and were voted the second best brewery in the world at RateBeer Best 2018. Their blog is well worth a regular visit, even if you are not a complete hop head, as this recent quote from a post on mental health in the beer industry shows:

Every business is driven by a sense of bringing something meaningful into being with adequate rewards in exchange for effort, but our individual and shared humanity must be central to our company goals, targets, systems, and culture, if we’re to build long-term sustainability. Our ambition should not just focus on protecting our staff from physical, mental, or emotional harm, but also be centred around a sense of holistic, collective, and individual happiness too.

(Source: From Head Down to Head Space)

A couple of weeks ago they launched two new beers, resulting in 990 orders the day before the beers were due to be sent out. This launch was high-profile in the British craft beer scene and it could not have gone more wrong.

This being a bank holiday weekend, many Cloudwater fans would have eagerly been awaiting their beers for the holiday weekend. But only half the order arrived, resulting in many unhappy customers.

I wanted to share this post which Cloudwater wrote on their blog which explains exactly what went wrong. There are many lessons in there, in terms of how to treat customers, how to communicate with them, how to resolve issues when they go wrong, and what actions to take to make sure this never happens again.

While the post is written in a calm manner, you really get the sense of personal ownership of the issue and the fact that this caused great distress to those at Cloudwater. I really feel that they will have lost very few customers as a result of this disaster, and in fact, this could generate a lot of goodwill as people see the genuine efforts at resolving this in a way that satisfies those who did not receive the service they had come to expect from such a highly-regarded craft brewery.

Parcel Farce

Credit: Cloudwater Brew Co.

We are still picking up the pieces from the chaos that ensued a couple of weeks ago, but we are finally able to let you guys know what went wrong at Parcelforce, what we are able to do about it, and how we are going to work to ensure you enjoy a better service from us from this point onwards.

Our new account manager at Parcelforce tells us they faced their worst two system failures in 15 years simultaneously (one controlling internal parcel processing, the other their tracking system), right as we loaded up 990 orders onto a lorry two weeks ago today. Instead of your orders being processed, sent overnight to regional hubs, and out on van drops from there, a depressing 585 of you waited not just over the weekend, but days into the next week to receive your beers. We are, of course, deeply upset by this outcome too, and have pushed Parcelforce for compensation.

I am sad to say that Parcelforce are currently only going to offer us 50% of the shipping charge of the 330 or so orders that took longer than 24 working hours to from booking in on their system to delivery (they aren’t yet on board with including the additional 255 orders that weren’t booked into their system until Friday, and were delivered on their next working day of Tuesday) as compensation because your orders were delayed, and not lost. In real terms, that’s just £4 per order. As we are offering free shipping this month, and spending £8 per parcel for an express 24-hour (overnight) service, their compensation would see us receive just £1320 and fork out over £3360 just to send all 585 of you that suffered delays empty boxes with an apology letter inside. When we’ve put over £7900 worth of business Parcelforce’s way in shipping just these 990 orders alone this month, we’re left feeling a little sore to say the least. The fact that we’re about to put another £3360 in their pot just to try and make things as right as we feel it needs to be with you all stings a fair bit, and this isn’t even taking into account the cost to us of the compensation beers we’ll send out!

Ultimately, despite us following the same system that’s worked for us time and again before, and despite the issues you all faced being entirely caused by system failures at Parcelforce, we maintain responsibility for making sure you get what you ordered from us in great shape. We are going to ship every one of you that suffered delays some free beer (compensation packages will be based on initial order volume) as a further apology for the stress, and for the stress caused a couple of weekends ago. We hope this goes some way to convey our commitment to serving you better, and to also convey our appreciation that you put business our way directly in the first place.

We’ll be sending you all an email very soon to inform you of when we are shipping you some free compensation beer. As things stand we’re shooting for shipping out to all of you that suffered delays next Wednesday.

Looking to the future, and following a meeting with our new account manager at Parcelforce (we have recently been upgraded to a face-to-face account manager, from the tele-team that offered us support in the past), we are going to do the following to improve our service:

  • Continue to use a premium, express 24-hour service, but ship beer only on Monday and Wednesday. Should problems caused by any link in the postal chain occur, they are very likely to be remedied before your order is in danger of spending the weekend in a warehouse or depot.
  • Develop our website to offer you a tracking portal (though implementation will likely take some weeks), so that you can see the timed slot allocated by Parcelforce, and fix current, ongoing email confirmation issues.
  • Work closely with our new account manager to plan out releases where we expect to see high-volume orders, to ensure they are pre-booking space on the earliest regional hub runs, and final drops to get your orders to you asap the following day.
  • Reposition some of our team, and figure out whether we need to grow our online team, in order to improve our throughput capacity on big-volume release days.
  • Trial APC to see whether they can offer us an improved service over Parcelforce, though it very much seems that some courier services are better in certain parts of the country, and others better elsewhere.

The reality is that no courier company is perfect, and nobody can offer us 100% guarantee that there’ll never be any delays or mistakes with any of your orders in the future. But we are confident that with our new account manager, and with the new Parcelforce portal we’ve now got access to (to track your delivery status in real time, allowing us to flag up any faults or delays before you’re aware of them yourselves), we at least have a sensible route forward to developing our online shop and our preferred delivery service. We sure will appreciate all your continued support as we strive to realise our vision of getting our beer to you, wherever you are in the UK, as fresh as we possibly can.

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Main photo credit: Hops and Crafts

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