Ocado will be no Amazon

Ocado has the power to be the Amazon of online food shopping in the UK. But it won’t be.

Last night, we had a 9–10pm delivery slot. We often go for this slot because it’s free—most delivery slots now cost extra, anything up to £5.99—and we are not big Saturday night revellers. I received a call from the delivery man at 9.50pm saying that he would be late, and that he expected to be with me at 11.15pm.

He eventually rocked up at 11.50pm. I unpacked the fridge and freezer bags and hit the sack at 12.10am, saving the unpacking of the cupboard goods until this morning.

The driver was very apologetic, and I asked the reasons behind the delay, and how I could get some recompense out of Ocado.

Here’s the reason. Ocado’s new business is going through the roof. They’re recruiting more and more new customers, and they are now delivering to over 14,000 addresses per day. But their fleet of delivery vans is not increasing, not at the same rate, at least. Instead, they’re packing more and more delivery slots into a given hour, and increasing the number of delivery slots, now delivering on Sundays, for example.

Eighteen months ago, the drivers were asked to do six deliveries per hour. Now, they’re asked to do between ten and twelve per hour—a ridiculous expectation given that the driver generally spends a good ten minutes parked outside our property identifying the right boxes before knocking on our door.

Now the drivers are paid by the hour. And if they’re delayed and willing to work longer (and the customers are willing to accept the late deliveries), then they’ll make more money on the night. (A great example of remuneration strategy driving perverse behaviour.) If they’re not willing to do crazy amounts of overtime, then they have the right to call the customer confirming that they will not receive their goods, and asking them to call customer services to arrange a revised delivery slot.

I guess their hope is that their drivers are willing to work the longer hours, that customers are willing to accept the late deliveries, and that those customers won’t be too put out by the delay.

Amazon doesn’t do this to its customers. It makes a next-day delivery commitment and sticks to it. And in the rare event that it’s not met and the customer isn’t happy, it bends over backwards to make sure the customer is made happy, even telling its customers to keep any books that might have been delivered wrongly. (By contrast, when we told Ocado that £14-worth of infant milk did not arrive in the delivery the other week, they questioned my wife heavily before eventually honouring the refund.)

So Ocado: treat your customers well. Don’t squeeze us. Loyalty’s more brittle than it once was. Squeeze us, and we’ll talk with our feet, or at least our fingers, and I’ll type sainsburys.co.uk or tesco.com instead of ocado.com in the blink of an eye.


4 Responses to “Ocado will be no Amazon”

  1. k price on September 27th, 2009 23:42

    i cannot use Ocado as i do not have a mobile phone and am therefore unable to register for their service !

  2. Lou on October 1st, 2009 17:44

    you can register without a mobile – you just can’t use their reserved service.

  3. SLATFATF on October 9th, 2009 16:16

    But that is not a fair comparison. Amazon does not promise a delivery slot of one hour. If they did, they would have exactly the same issue as ocado. Also, amazon does not do the deliveries, the deliveries tend to be books that fit through the letter box etc etc etc.

    The second issue is to get smart. Take the first delivery of the day and don’t be a tight arse. They get later as they go through the day and the food is not stuck in the van as long. Who the hell shops at the poshest most expensive online shopping company and then tries to save 5 quid on delivery. Bizarre.

  4. Dan on October 10th, 2009 13:57

    Amazon lives up to its promise. Ocado doesn’t. That is the comparison I’m making—I’m not suggesting that Amazon should get into one-hour delivery slots.

    Tight arse: fair point.

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