[box type=”alert” size=”large”]Updated 11/16/11 with the content of my new post “The Viaddress Interview“. Go to that post for the lastest information and to comment. To see the original post that was here previously, scroll to the bottom of the page.[/box]
It’s been a long while since publishing the last posts I made about the discount package forwarding service Viaddress. At the time I became involved after getting caught in a massive backlog and found myself joined there with many other customers, and looking for answers which were scarce and hard to separate from the hype and fiction of other forwarding services that seemed equally interested in pitching their own product (I filtered dozens of obviously fake comments from the original two posts).
Eventually tho, the backlog was handled, the comments and emails from concerned customers stopped coming — and Viaddress refunded my shipping fees from the test I ran way back when this whole thing started. They also asked me to take down my earlier posts, but, I made a counter-offer: Lots of folks still come to this site searching for Viaddress and I thought the fairest thing I could do for those curious about the company would be to give Viaddress a chance to tell their story and conduct an email interview. They agreed and below is the full interview with David Wallace, Vice-President of Viaddress.
#1: So I guess some background is in order; could you take a moment to introduce yourself, Viaddress and what Viaddress does?
As you may already know, my name is David Wallace and I joined the Viaddress company as Vice President back in March 2011 to help improve the business operations and customer relationships.
Viaddress is a package forwarding company that was established to help people from countries outside the United States to shop at any American store they want. Viaddress makes shopping from the US retailers possible for people in over 230 Countries and Territories by forwarding packages to them at the lowest shipping rates in the market.
Viaddress prides itself by offering the lowest shipping fees to forward packages from the United States, and by being the only package forwarding company that offers a free US address to its customers with no setup fees, no monthly fees, no concierge fees and no storage fees.
#2: About a year ago, Viaddress seemed to go totally off-grid; later you had said there was a massive backlog after a warehouse closure. What started off that chain of effects and how did it get that bad?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The move was complicated […] and it had to be done during the holiday rush, because the old warehouse had no space to spare for incoming boxes.[/quote]
Back in 2010, Viaddress was planning to move to a larger warehouse after the Christmas holidays to accommodate the increasing number of shoppers, however the volume of arriving boxes exceeded everyone’s expectations following the thanksgiving holiday seasons and we had no choice but to make an immediate move in the middle of the holiday shopping season, which was not an easy task.
The move was complicated because it involved moving the delivery addresses of tens of thousands of customers from the old warehouse to our current warehouse, and it had to be done during the holiday rush, because the old warehouse had no space to spare for incoming boxes.
We did our best to keep our customers informed about their new address with Viaddress, and we made the new address available on everyone’s account area on Viaddress.com, however, some customers were still shipping their purchases to their address at our old warehouse because they had it saved on the retailers websites, long after we provided them with the new address, which caused a few delays in rerouting and forwarding their orders.
#3: Why did it take so long to finally come forward with what had happened?
I apologize on behalf of the whole Viaddress team if some people feel that they were not informed about the reason of the delays during the 2010 holidays shopping season. I also would like to add that previous Viaddress staff did their best to mention the necessary move to the new warehouse a few times in our newsletters that were sent out to all our registered customers by giving notices, reminders and a deadline, we also mentioned that it may cause a few delays in processing orders for our existing customers.
To ensure the satisfaction of our customers, we frequently upgraded the shipping method for free, for orders that were affected by the holiday rush delays, and we even issued full refunds for the shipping fees on multiple occasions, even though the shipping fees are our only source of income; we basically forwarded their packages for free.
Fortunately, the new customers who registered after we moved to our new warehouse were not affected by those delays, because the new location was fully staffed and fully operational before we moved to it.
#4: Do you feel confident that what happened last year won’t/can’t happen again?
Absolutely, we have learned our lesson from the past holiday shopping season and we’re confident that we are fully prepared to handle the spike in order volume during this upcoming 2011 holiday shopping season.
We have made a few upgrades to our workflow and installed state of the art technologies at our warehouse to handle packages more efficiently.
We also made significant upgrades to our I.T. department and to our online administration systems so we can process orders in a timely manner. We have even ran a few simulations and passed them successfully.
#5: What kind of resources exist now for customers to get in touch with you that didn’t exist a year ago?
Current customers may have noticed that we replaced our communication system trough traditional email by the award winning Help Desk system from Zendesk, which proved to be quite efficient and made a huge positive difference in our customer service.
Our response time to customer tickets has improved considerably since last year. Over 98% of our customer inquiries through our help desk are answered within 4 to 24 hours.
You can see from the attached (below) Customers Tickets Evolution Report how our customer service department was able to bring down the number of unsolved tickets dramatically over the past few months which is impressive given the fact that the volume of arriving boxes never ceased to grow since the beginning of 2011.
We have added more Frequently Asked Questions to our site and we encourage people to check them before sending us a question because they can find the answer to their questions there most of the time.
#6: Anything else you’d like to add (additional questions you’d like to answer?)
We have hired more team members in our Shipping department and Customer Service department to accommodate the growth of our company.
We have lowered our already discounted shipping rates and we consistently make sure that our shipping rates are lower than any competitor out there.
Shoppers from outside the United States can feel confident that by using Viaddress to forward packages from US retailers, they are getting the lowest shipping fees and highest quality of customer service.
Viaddress is sincerely committed to building strong and lasting relationships with our customers and to developing and improving on all aspects of our services.
[box type=”alert” size=”large”]What follows is the original article as written in December, 2010 and contains information that is out-of-date and kept for historical reasons only. My new post “The Viaddress Interview” is available, go to that post for the lastest information and to comment.[/box]
A short while ago after doing some personal investigation I wrote a post about Viaddress. At the time I had no idea just how many other people were affected by the business practices of this company, or what a string of events would end up occurring.
I originally started this quest when I was planning to write a blog series on various companies offering services akin to Viaddress. Viaddress was the first company I tested since it was apparently the cheapest by my calculations. To test them, I sent a t-shirt from shirt.woot and a book from Alibris to my unit #. Incidentally, after explaining the situation, woot actually mailed me a second shirt to my international address for no charge. They’ve won much respect from me for that.
Since the last post was written, Viaddress has circulated an very upbeat email informing people they had stopped all storage fees and had moved into a new warehouse, blaming lack of storage for previous delays:
The move was not anticipated until after Christmas, however after receiving a record-high number of packages following Thanksgiving holiday deliveries —which caused some delays in processing shipments for some existing customer— we had to proceed with the move to the new warehouse to serve our existing customers better and sustain the ever-growing number of new customers.
Because of this, their warehouse has now moved to 55335 CORWIN RD, Elkhart Indiana 46514 with the BBB listing two additional addresses at 114 W Sycamore St Elkhart, IN 46516 and the previous warehouse address a short distance away at 530 East Lexington Ave Elkhart, IN 46516.
Four days later Viaddress sent a second email, telling people they needed to fill out a new form to allow them to process their USPS incoming mail – without mentioning the Postal Inspectors had previously quarantined their operation.
Due to recent USPS regulation changes, all customers expecting packages from USPS, must complete USPS Form 1583 in order for us to receive their shipments from USPS. Viaddress may not accept packages from USPS until we receive Form 1583, authorizing Viaddress to accept packages on your behalf.
It should be noted none of this is too bad; but, it doesn’t address why users of their services have gone for weeks without responses. Viaddress’ own forums are filled with various posts from angry customers who still haven’t seen their packages.
Calls and emails from this author to Viadress regarding these issues have also yet to have been returned, despite my knowledge that Viadress is aware of my posts and my desire to speak with them on the record regarding what has happened and what they will do to correct it.
Viaddress also has received additional complaints with the Better Business Bureau, who has given them their lowest possible rating of F. All of these issues have created a mass upheaval across the internet of unhappy current and past clients of the service.
If you’re in need of a shipment service, check out some of the alternatives listed in the post and comments on my original post. I would strongly discourage anyone from shipping with Viaddress, at least until they have opened up as to what went wrong and shown clear progress in dealing with their customers, handling their business in a timely and orderly fashion and being fair in their shipping rates.
Oh, and, Viaddress, since I know you’ll eventually read this: email me at robin @ robinmonks . com so we can set up a time to talk about this entire thing. Pretending this problem isn’t there isn’t going to do anyone any good.