Three weeks ago I phoned a contact at the Southbank Red Cross Blood Bank in Melbourne to arrange my work’s regular visit to donate blood. Since starting my current job I have taken over from a colleague in organising our visit. The normal procedure is to call the Southbank centre, book a time and confirm the minivan pickup instructions (in case the regular driver is not available and they send a different driver who is not familiar with the area).

I rang the contact two weeks ago and left a message. It was not returned, so I sent an email the next day. No response. Two weeks went by. I called the main Blood Bank number (on Tuesday 10 November), explained the situation and asked to make an appointment. Can’t do that, I was told. Group appointments have to be made through the marketing team. My message (and complaint) would be passed on and I would receive a call back. Two days went by and I heard nothing.

I grew up in a culture of volunteering and donating. My mother was a regular donor, and I remember catching the train into the city with her to donate in the old building in the centre of Perth, including riding in the old fashioned lift where you had to close the doors by hand like in old movies. My grandmother volunteered in the Red Cross op shop on the ground floor, where I loved to buy second hand books.

Unfortunately my positive childhood memories of the culture of the Red Cross and the virtue of volunteering and donating have been completely undermined by my adult experiences. This week I was reminded of my negative experience in trying to donate blood in 2006. It’s simply not good enough. If the Blood Bank wants me to donate my blood, it must not waste my time. The Red Cross marketing team are fundamentally incompetent, and they have lost me as a donor again (perhaps permanently).

Update 19 November 2009: today I got a call from someone at the Red Cross Blood Bank marketing department relating to my complaint / appointment call. He’s a summary of the multiple failures that led to the situation I described above:

  1. when the Southbank group appointment coordinator left her phone number was deactivated without being forwarded to another employee;
  2. her email account was deactivated without being forwarded to another employee;
  3. when I called the main number and made my complaint / request it was forwarded to the already departed staff member’s phone DESPITE ME JUST TELLING THEM I GOT NO RESPONSE FROM HER; and
  4. it took 8 working days for my message from 10 November to be passed on and acted on my someone in the marketing department.

I was told by the marketing department employee that no other complaints have been received. I’m sure they have all been lost in the system, and most people give up more easily and don’t bother pursuing the matter. I also learned that, along with the expansion of the Southbank centre, the call centre formerly located there to service the local area has been nationalised and all calls are now coming from somewhere in South Australia. When they compile data for their next annual report and wonder why retention has declined, I wonder whether they will acknowledge these issues.

the Red Cross Blood Bank – a case study of repeated customer service failure

11 thoughts on “the Red Cross Blood Bank – a case study of repeated customer service failure

  • 12 November 2009 at 6:57 am
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    I hear tales like this time and time again, that is how difficult the blood bank make it for people to donate. In recognition that no one gets paid for giving blood and it takes a good bit of time, it should be the smoothest and easiest process in the world.

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  • 12 November 2009 at 11:56 am
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    In the past few years many rural/regional perm. Red Cross Blood Donation centres have closed or are no longer on the route for the mobile van – country people wanting to donate blood have to make an appointment for when the van might be in the nearest town (which could be hours away IF the visit is not cancelled without warning) and then travel out of their way, wasting precious time to donate blood.

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    • 12 November 2009 at 12:07 pm
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      The Red Cross Blood Bank evidently does not understand the cause of these problems – itself. It does not appreciate how important time is to people. Having had donations completed in 30 minutes at the Bourke St centre when everything works properly, I see no reason why they cannot manage this better. If they want my time they must offer a customer service guarantee and real compensation if they fail to meet the standard. Perhaps when they get really desperate for donors they will learn to adapt, but they are inviting an unnecessary crisis on themselves for failing to manage the situation.

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  • 29 July 2010 at 5:37 pm
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    On the flip-side folks – I’m a recipient. Every 28 days I need a blood plasma product infusion or I’ll get an infection and my genetically flawed immune system won’t be able to fight, quite literally for my life. There are no other options, treatments or cures – I need blood plasma product to stay alive.
    If anyone comes back and reads this thread please know that words cannot express the gratitude that I feel for those who take the time out of their day to give so generously for folk such as myself – I hope that that may “compensate” for the mistakes that the blood bank staff make. Compensation such as money – would devalue a donation.

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    • 29 July 2010 at 6:09 pm
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      Hi Jackie, I’m sure most donors don’t want to be paid, but as we are treated so poorly by the Blood Bank we’d like some acknowledgement or compensation when they waste our time.

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  • 25 January 2011 at 11:15 am
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    Hi, first of the all the ARCBS is a different organisation then the ARC. Both are linked the ICRC and IFRC. Second of all, the reasons behind your experience are due to a breakdown in process. They are a NGO (actually they are arent they are a hybrid of a NGO, but I don’t need to go into detail) and are staffed primarily through a dedicated volunteer base and nurses. The guy who drives the bus, is usually a volunteer. The nurses are recieving very low pay, and the person at the front desk is usually on around $20,000 a year. The ARC has some of the best process design people in the world, usually ex-top tier consultants who have ‘jumped the fence’ for the greater good. These people work very closely with logistics specialists. They are limited but there focus is getting supplies to the most remote parts of the world, not fitzroy. My point being, they don’t have the resources to ensure you are happy (would be nice) because they are needed somewhere else. They are doing there best with what they have. No offence mate, but you seem easy annouyed with the world. You are supposed to be a fitzoy citizen = relax!!

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    • 25 January 2011 at 11:31 am
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      You miss the point. Obtaining donations from volunteers and retaining volunteer participation requires treating them well, and the ARCBS repeatedly fails in this regard.

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  • 10 July 2013 at 5:00 pm
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    I worked for the Red Cross blood service their staff are bully’s and the culture is extremely negative…. It’s extremely disappointing as this is such a crucial service for all australians well being. The government will eventually have to out source if the staff keep up this disgusting culture…. From concerned!

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  • 10 July 2013 at 5:16 pm
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    In response to the Red Cross worker…. No the driver is not a volunteer …. No you are not paid badly….. I was paid excellent money plus penalties…., the only volunteer is the food and beverage assistant who the nurses are rude to and won’t even say hello and acknowledge …F##k …(excuse my language which does express passion). The nurses are paid well its only they chose not to work in a hospital and do night shift hence why the pay is not equivalent to another nurse. Red Cross blood service disgusting …. How do you staff treat your dog at home???? Red Cross staff you may need the product one day ….

    Reply

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