Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Viking Indirect or how Office Depot takes care of Belgian business

I must say I am flabbergasted with the Belgian version of how Office Depot / Viking Direct is "taking care of business". A couple of days ago I decided to order some stuff for my office from them, even though last time I did that they sent me a letter by snail mail (they have my e-mail and phone details) to ask me for a fax (!) on my company's letterhead paper confirming the delivery address. It does seem that to some people letterhead paper sent over a fax is a secure way of verifying the credentials of a business, but I would never advise a customer to proceed in such a way because (1) letterhead paper does not mean much in a world where excellent scanners allow any thug to copy a company's logo and (2) asking a customer who fills-in a form online to confirm that order via fax is a major disservice.
Anyway, I was hoping that having ordered once from them and gone through the hassle of faxing paper I would get some decent service for my second order, also placed through their online interface, which seems to work decently well. So you can imagine my surprise when; three business days later, I got yet another letter by snail mail asking for a fax to confirm the delivery address and to ask for prepayment of over 65% of the amount due. Let me get his:

  1. here we have a company who has a peculiar view of e-commerce that in essence creates paperwork for me when e-commerce is supposed to eliminate all that;

  2. I get less service and slower processing of my order than going to a shop with office fixtures and equipment to get the stuff I need, which again defeats the purpose of ordering online;

  3. I get to pay cash for my deliveries when other suppliers give me the standard 30-day settlement for my orders, in a revolutionary implementation of "cash-and-no-delivery-unless-you-fax-us";

  4. Viking Direct is everything but direct in the way they deal with me as a customer, sending me standardized replies on paper and in a format that is no longer used even by the most tech-retarded public administration around;

  5. on top of that the same company is flooding my mailbox with ads and catalogs trying to convince me to buy more from them, and in the process using incredible amounts of paper as though Office Depot had declared a war upon all the forests of this planet;

What I fail to understand is why a major player who created its
business by exploiting the potential of the web in the US seems to be
turning into a soviet administration when they set foot to do business
in this country.


  1. If what you describe here was not so incredibly retarded, it would be hilarious.
    Even banks got it: most of them now offer e-statements and ten years of archiving, freeing us, customers, from storing huge stacks of papers (acting as inefficient backups for data they have).
    How can a company whose main goal is to have an efficient stock turnaround, be less dynamic than banks?

  2. David, that's an excellent question! I agree with you that even my bank is much better than Viking Direct: from e-statements to direct transactions on stocks of all major exchanges to all sorts of reports it does provider 24/7/365 service...
    To me this also shows that established companies with a tradition in managing operations and with deeper pockets than new entrants increasingly have the upper hand in the competitive game. The days when nimble start-ups could really upset major players by "merely" using technology in a smart way may be drawing to an end although that does not mean that opportunities are less interesting.

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