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:
- when the Southbank group appointment coordinator left her phone number was deactivated without being forwarded to another employee;
- her email account was deactivated without being forwarded to another employee;
- 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
- 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.