The contrast of IKEA buying and home delivery experiences

Sep 13, 2008

This will be my last IKEA post for a while ;) but I wanted to post about the contrast I experienced between the buying and home delivery experiences while going to their new Brooklyn store. In short, I was done selecting and buying and paying in 30 minutes, and I had to wait the next full hour in an overcrowded delivery line.

I find the IKEA purchase process to be very well suited for my taste. You first go through the showroom, noting down the things that you like.Then, you go through “Marketplace” and pick up any accessories and smaller items that you like. Last, you go to the storage area and pick up the packages for the furniture that you selected beforehand. Then, you pay and are out.

The whole thing above took me less than 30 minutes, start to finish. And if you had your own car, the story would end right then and there, as you could just walk down to the parking lot and load your stuff in your car and drive away. But a lot of New Yorkers don’t have cars – and even if they do, it’s hard to fit a full sofa in a small car. So, at some point, you will need home delivery which IKEA offers.

So, you have all your stuff in a big cart or several carts, and you go look for home delivery. Here is how it went for me.

  1. You go stand in line close to the home delivery.

  2. You find out that it’s not the right line, as this one goes to the U-Haul stand that is sort of randomly in the middle of the hallway, which you do not need. You go to the right line that has 3 times more people and stuff in it. You wait.

  3. IKEA person #1 eventually walks up to you and gives you a form to fill with your home address, phone etc. (One of the few things in this list that actually makes sense.)

  4. You stand and wait endlessly.

  5. IKEA person #2 walks up to you and looks at your stuff. They take your receipt and the form you filled out, and disappear for several minutes.

  6. IKEA person #2 comes back with copies made of everything. He hands you all this paperwork, and tells you to go wait in ANOTHER line that consists of people only, no more stuff. You leave your stuff there and go to wait in another line.

  7. You wait.

  8. You finally reach the counter for IKEA person #3. They take all your paperwork and disappear to nowhere for several minutes.

  9. IKEA person #3 comes back with all your paperwork. They keep tapping things into computer and disappear again.

  10. IKEA person #3 comes back and hands you a piece of paper about the delivery. You’re finally done.

Getting through this list literally took me an hour one Saturday night. I think this service design is broken and in very sharp contrast with their much smoother purchase experience.

Here’s how I think it should work:

  1. You walk up to a kiosk/computer workstation.

  2. You scan/enter your receipt number.

  3. You check/uncheck the items that you do/don’t want delivered, and pick a delivery time that works for you.

  4. The workstation prints out stickers to put on your items.

  5. You put stickers on your stuff and take everything to an IKEA person.

  6. The IKEA person checks the stickers on the stuff, and you’re done.

An analogy I would draw here is airport check-in with kiosks that is now ubiquitous in the US, I don’t know how widespread it is yet in Europe. Here in the US, you pretty much must use the machines, even with checked luggage. You do everything yourself, and in the end, a person puts a sticker on your checked luggage. I used to not like these machines out of some weird fear that airline check-in is something that a human must always do, but these machines usually work fine and have a clear understandable wizard interface that walks you through the process pretty efficiently.