customer service

I've recently had two frustrating experiences ordering from online companies and it's got me thinking about how important customer service is. I always go out of my way to package orders carefully, ship them quickly, and communicate by email with customers. Ordering online can be scary for some people and I want to make the process as easy as possible for them. I almost feel, as an online company, that I'm responsible in some way for their online shopping experience. So, it always disappoints me when companies larger than mine seem to care so little about it.

I ordered some pants for a Christmas gift for my husband on December 8th from a company that shall go unnamed. I'd been getting their catalogs for some time but hadn't ordered and I decided to take advantage of their free shipping offer. I received a confirmation email that my order was processed and then nothing. I waited a week and a half and called them. The item was in stock but they were busy and it hadn't shipped yet. The person I spoke to was nice enough but clearly didn't care. I waited some more. Finally, four days before Christmas I got an email that the order had shipped. And it arrived on Christmas Eve. I was steaming mad by this point and thought really hard about just refusing the package. I'm sorry but there's just no excuse for waiting three weeks to ship an order. If you're that busy, maybe you should hire some extra help for the holidays—it's not like there aren't people who need jobs. Lesson 1: Ship in a timely manner and, if you can't, let the customer know.

The second order was from a company that sells fabrics for cross stitch. I have a custom order scheduled and I wanted some nice linen to work with. Again, I got a confirmation e-mail but then no communication at all for a week. Last Friday I got the email that the package had shipped and it arrived today. But, when I opened it there was only one of the three items I ordered and that one was the wrong size (larger than I ordered so that worked in my favor). I called, they were very apologetic, but now it will be another week before I get my stuff. Lesson 2: Check and double check every order before it leaves your premises. I print out an extra copy of every invoice to include in the package and I check off every item as it goes into the box. And I pack one box at a time or keep them far enough apart that there's no confusion.

I seriously doubt if I'll ever shop with either of these companies again. There are other clothing companies and other shops that sell embroidery materials; shops that will ship orders on time and include the right things in the package. I have lots of choices. Lesson 3: (the old standard) You only get one chance to make a first impression. If you have a business you want people to shop with you again. It's much easier to get past customers to return than to attract new ones, so why screw that up. And, if you do make a mistake, make it right as quickly as you can.

Just some advice in case you're thinking of starting a business of your own.

Update: I received the second package from the embroidery supply company and guess what? It only contained one of the two missing items. So, I called again and was told that the third item was backordered. And how exactly was I supposed to know this? The person I spoke to didn't seem all that concerned when I told her I wouldn't be shopping with them in the future. Now, that's a poorly run business!


Anonymous said...

So true! I had the same experience over the holidays and walked away even more committed to providing the best customer service possible.

Alberta Art Classes said...

I have been very frustrated by the quality of customer service lately. Instead of going around grumpy all of the time, I decided I would just be sure to tell retailers when they have great customer service. If I don't have a good experience, I say so and try not to patronize the establishment in the future. It is disheartening that customer service is becoming a lost art. Glad to know I am not alone!

Vicki W said...

I am so with you! I have decided that you can be successful in ANY business if you will just focus on the customer service. Companies get one chance with me too and that's it. it's one reason that I order constantly from dharma trading even though they are on the opposite coast. Their service is awesome!

Unknown said...

Ugh. I've had horrible customer service lately, too. I did want you to know that I received my buttons a few days ago and they are so nice. Your customer service was excellent and I'll be back to shop again.


Anonymous said...

Know how you feel. Here at the flower shop we have always confirmed deliveries of all orders leaving the shop. We give time recip signed for flowers, break down of flower arrangement and price. We've done that for local deliveries and incoming wire orders to be delivered for 37 years. It really helps the customer when reconciling credit card and bank statements and it stops claims of non-delivery or item wasn't what was ordered. We just refer back to original order and the subsequent confirmation of delivery. Customers are greatful for the service.

Anonymous said...

It is scary ordering online...I was really disappointed about an Etsy thing I purchased and it never arrived. I didn't think to insure (I usually always rememeber for everything else) and the crafter said she never had problems with the mail...bottom line is that I lost out - how do I know she was even telling the truth? She could have at least offered a replacement and probably automatically have everything sent insured.
Recently I ordered quilt fabrics from one of the online shops...they sent the wrong items and so I had to then send it back...hopefully they will reimburse my postage like they said.
As you can see I'm not a total fan of online shopping...I really do like to see/feel what I am buying...I've been disappointed with what was great description/photos and the thing arrives and is not as great. :(

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I agree! I've had my share of not-so-great experiences myself lately, and plenty over the years. Last year I sent fabric back to an online shop who confirmed that they'd reimburse, but I never got the reimbursement from them. They got my payment and their returned fabric, but I got nothing back. I DO still get e-mail from them several times a week offering me great deals on fabric, but I don't even open their e-mail. I need to just unsubscribe because they won't be selling me anything.

Last week I ordered from an online shop and got a notice when things were processed, but I noticed that my amount was half of what it should have been. They didn't have over half of what I'd ordered in stock any more, but decided not to inform me before shipping. I'd ordered patterns with the fabric and lace I wanted to use for those patterns, so I would have liked for them to have told me that things were out of stock so that I could have ordered something to replace what I needed. I e-mailed the lady and she said she just didn't have time to let me know what wasn't in stock because she was so busy. She was very nice in her return e-mail, so I'll likely give her another try, but not with a lot of confidence about what I'll actually be receiving in my order! If I can find it somewhere else, "somewhere else" will likely get my order first!

I did have someone forget to include fabric in a shipment lately, and it happened to be a piece that I needed right away. I e-mailed them and not only were they very nice in their return e-mail, but they also sent me a $15 gift certificate. I'll definitely continue buying from them! People make mistakes -- we all do -- but the best people admit it and try to make up for it. I check their store before anyone else's now when ordering because their prices beat everyone else, and because they went out of their way to make things right.

Yep, customer service makes ALL the difference! There are just too many online stores to choose from for some of them not to care!

KR said...

Customer service is what makes or breaks a company in my opinion!! Good for you for taking your bad experience and using that to purposefully give your customers the best service they can get. :)


Niesz Vintage Home said...

So sorry to hear about your bad experiences.
I agree totally! Customer service is the number one reason why I will continue (or discontinue) doing business with a particular company.

As was said by another poster, mistakes can and will happen occassionally...but how those problems are dealt with goes a looong way!

Kimberly :)

annasoc said...

I have to say that the little independent companies like yours, Janet, or many of the sellers on Etsy, are the ones that truly care about their customers. Most of the time I've had lightning fast shipping and many of the indie sellers even carefully wrap and decorate each package, and sometimes include little extras like a few pieces of hard candy or a small card. It makes just getting the package a special event and a visual treat. You are never going to get that from a big retailer. As you said, often they don't care about the timing, the packaging or the item. Of course the items aren't lovingly made in someone's studio either, but a factory overseas.

Terry said...

I'm so with you on this one! I've been dealing with a company where I order by phone and I never EVER get a call to tell me about a back order. I always have to call to check on the things. I'm still waiting and getting excuses which looks to happen again next week. I finally got fed up today and spoke to a supervisor. That was a big waste of time. No apology; just a "well so and so usually does a great job" and "we've got a lot of orders to fill". Okay but how about a little feed back to your customers? What's a phone call or an e-mail to let someone know about back orders? If it's not your sales person causing the problem then get to the bottom of the communication problem within the company. I'm going to request a different company be used with next year's funds. Not worth all the hassle!

Mia said...

Customer service can make or break a company regardless of size. And customer service seems to be disappearing. Right now I am involved in the non-delivery of a club shipment from an indie yarn dyer. Let's just say that it has reached the point where I am finding out how to file mail fraud charges against this person.

So far everyone I have dealt with on Etsy has been super great to deal with. I placed an order for something on Christmas Eve and the vendor had it ready to ship out that day. I don't mind back orders so long as I know when I place the order.