Friday, August 17, 2007

Customer Service

A post by Eric Sink, Absurd Customer Service, was the inspiration of this post. I had been thinking of writing this up anyway and hadn't gotten around to it. So his post seemed to be a good enough reason.

Two weeks ago I ordered some bike parts from an internet retailer. How do the local shops get away with charging such ridiculous prices? The total came to about $70 plus $8 shipping (USPS). After pressing the submit order button a feeling of panic came over me as I realized I forgot a $10 part. I definitely did not want another $10 order with $8 shipping. So I scanned the web site for a phone number hoping to catch my order and add the missing part. There must be a phone number somewhere.

I finally found a phone number and tried it. The phone was busy! I am not used to getting a busy signal for a business. Unfortunately, I am conditioned to expect to wait on hold for hours, but that is a topic for another day. By this time the confirmation email had come and I skimmed through it. It had the following paragraph:

"Questions sent to us from the order status screen are answered before questions that you send us directly via e-mail, so please log into the Customer Service part of our website to ask your order related questions."

I raced back to the web site to look for the order status screen only to find nothing. There was nothing called an order status screen. In fact their FAQ alludes to the fact that there isn't one because the tracking number is only going to come by email.

Since time is of the essence and they apparently do not respond to email very quickly I tried using their 'contact us' page.

24 hours later I received notice that my order had shipped, but no mention of my added part.

Another day goes by and I get an email from them saying it was too late to add anything to my order because it had already shipped. Apparently their 'contact us' form just sends them an email. It was attached to the bottom of the email I received from them.

I replied telling them to forget about it, explaining that I had tried to contact them in the fastest way possible but that their phones and web site were making that difficult.

Two more days go by and I get a reply of 'Sorry we couldn't help you.'

Here is where customer service should have gone into effect. Put yourself in the position of the business. You have a customer with a $70 order that tried to add $10 part but couldn't. I know $10 isn't very much money to you. At most you would pocket $7-8. That amount of money is not going to make the rent payment on the brick and mortar. However, the opportunity cost for you is great.

What would you lose if you offer to send the $10 part out anyway without charging for shipping? You collect $10 minus the actual cost of the part and the actual cost for the shipping. You are using the USPS for shipping. A small part, shipped in a box provided by the USPS would ship for about $3-4. So when you add up all the actual costs you realize you haven't lost any money at all. In fact you have gained $2-3. And the most import thing of all is you have made a happy customer. This is a customer that felt stupid in the first place by forgetting something on the order and you have just saved the day. You are now the hero.

Businesses need to remember that a happy customer is a repeat customer. A happy customer encourages their friends to be customers. In this day and age of the internet a happy customer tells complete strangers to be customers. Oh, and the opposite is true also. An unhappy customer never returns, and will tell the entire world why.

(In case you are wondering who the retailer was I am not going to say. I am not an unhappy customer exactly. But, I am not a happy customer either. So they are not going to get the publicity either way. Had they shown some sort of customer service I would have written about how great it was and then told you who it was.)

Now, get back to Eric Sink. He writes way better than I write.

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