Dear Founders, Give a Damn, Give a Lot of It.
Over the next couple of months, I will be sharing stories about happenings at Printivo that I will tag #PrintivoMusings. I plan to do this once in a while.
Friday the 7th of June was an eventful day at Printivo, we were at the verge of hurting a customer on his most important day and we certainly were not ready to let that happen. And then I tweeted this…
A quick background story. A customer (Let me call him customers X) had ordered on the website, He ordered wedding programmes to be shipped to London for his wedding day. As we actively don’t ship to the UK, X had chatted with the customer happiness team and asked for a backchannel for his print order to be shipped to London, we have used this to ship orders to Canada, London, US and Ghana in the past. Customer X had used our services in Nigeria before relocating to the UK and when he realised printing on Printivo (Cost of printing +cost of shipping to London) still makes more economic sense than printing in London, he chose us again.
The order was printed on time and delivered to our logistics partner but somehow, things went south at their end. Customer X reached out the Printivo customer happiness team the morning of Friday 7th that he has been tracking his package on the shipping company’s website and clearly, it says the order is still in Lagos sitting at their sorting facility. X was to get married on Saturday the 8th of June, 2018. It was clearly printed on the wedding programmes and here we are, the package is still in Lagos. I was heading out to a meeting when I got a call from the office “Sir, we have an emergency”. The customer happiness team gave a detailed brief. They had only one option; Pull it out of the shipping company’s sorting centre and send it to London via an airline at no cost to the customer. We would handle the cost and discuss with our logistics partners later. No time to pass blames. But there are other problems. First, the package had been moved to the aviation unit of the shipping company and it’s sitting right at the cargo section of the airport with thousands of other packages ready be shipped out the next morning. The second problem is that the shipping company only has a flight to London the next morning, the Saturday of the wedding, there was no way X would have his wedding programme for his event. The third problem: considering the complexity of pulling out just one item from the cargo area, only a manager at the shipping company can pull such stunt, hence the reason to loop me in. I called the country manager of the shipping partner “You guys are pulling this item out or we will end our relationship with you guys right away!”. He promised he would do everything to bring it out so we can find alternatives. I Immediately cancelled my meeting that day and went straight to the airport, it took them hours to sort the package out, we eventually got it out around 5 pm. The customer happiness team kept in touch with customer X while I took the logistics person’s role immediately, I reached out to customer X as well and he promised if we can get the package to Heathrow, he would figure out how to pick it up. There was only one flight leaving Lagos for London that night, British Airways. We tried to ship via British Airways cargo, they had closed their cargo log for the day. Nothing would make them change the rule for us as all packages need to go to the cargo section of the airport for screening and they’ve done that for the day. They told us “If you want to get this package to London tomorrow, go to the check-in area and find a willing passenger, beg him, pay him, do whatever, but we can assure you, only a passenger can get this thing to London tomorrow morning”. All the shipping boys at NAHCO told me it’s too late. “If we collect your money, we are going to disappoint you”.
By now it was around 8.00pm. We had switched from being a shiny eCommerce printing business to a proper airport Agbero business, this package must go tonight. With the package in my hand, I was talking to passengers one person after the other with readiness to pay anything to have them add it to their luggage. I had dropped the fancy cloak of a CEO, forgot to even assign the task to anyone on the team, sleeves up, this thing must get to London tomorrow morning. It’s not an easy thing talking to total strangers for favours like this even if you were going to pay them. While at it, I ran into a Printivo investor, he really would have loved to take it but he was flying to Texas, we both stood there for a while. My Oga Emeka Azuka Okoye also met us there. While we chatted about how logistics is a mess in Nigeria, I was busy talking to every passenger that looked approachable on that BA flight. Now, this was around the time a group of airport staff planted hard drugs in a Saudi bound travels luggage in Kano. No one was ready to help out even though I offered to pay. Around 9 pm, we got lucky, I met a young man who accepted to add the package to his carryon luggage for a fee, we paid 2X the cost. He took the package, spoke with customer X and I paid him cash.
When I sent a message to the team on Slack that the package has been shipped. The team member managing the order called me right away and I could hear just how excited everyone was in the background. That was when it dawned on me that we had abandoned everything to fix one customer’s problem even though Printivo serves over 20,000 customers. It was then I remembered I left my meal at the office earlier that day and have had not eaten anything all day. Local man walked straight to Kilimanjaro at the airport to take care of himself.
6.00am the next morning, customer X’s call woke me up. “I just left Heathrow now, I picked it up. Thank you so much for going the extra mile”. In my 5 years of leading Printivo, this is one of the several moments that add meaning to the things we do and beyond all, We give a lot of damns. This is done not just through the team but the entire leadership at Printivo. There’s nothing we can’t abandon to make our customers happy. To founders and CEOs, our people will care about the things we care about and they will give a damn about the things we give a damn about. This is why we must be the captain who will not assign the ship to someone else during raging storms. Keep building, keep winning.
Now back to our logistic partner, I sent out an email copying everyone that can be copied, “let’s have a meeting on Monday. This madness must not repeat itself”. What followed was emails flying around and a series of meetings to make the service better.