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Customer Service 101

So I ordered something from a small company. Their website says it typically takes them 1-5 days to ship an order out, and I ordered USPS priority mail, which typically takes 2-3 days. I only took a closer look at this information when the order still hadn't arrived in 9 days, and I thought something might be amiss.

I find out from reading their website that they have been plagued with both the flu and equipment malfunctions, and that some orders have been delayed by a few days. This information was posted on their company's discussion boards, but no e-mail was sent directly to any customer with pending orders.

When I suggested that sending such an e-mail might have been more appropriate, I was told that if I wanted to know what's going on, I needed to subscribe to their announcements forum; if I chose not to, then they feel they don't owe customers any other kind of contact, as it was only a few days delay, and as 9 days is within their normal timeframe (which they are now saying is actually 7-10 days).

First, I feel like I'm being preached at, that not knowing my order might be delayed is *my* fault; second, they don't do a very good job of taking a conciliatory tone with a customer; and third, they seem to think that web-based information dissemination is adequate, and it's more than any of those bigger companies would offer, so they don't need to do any more.

Do you think this is acceptable customer service?

(It's a shame, really - I will likely order from them again only because they are the only people to offer certain products, and they do seem to offer a valuable service, but the tone was so snotty it just really, really put me off.)

Edited to add: They're sticking by their 7-10 day timeframe (no guarantees, of course). I ordered it on the 11th, which means that under normal circumstances I would have expected to receive it tomorrow (at the latest). They just told me it should go out today, which means I won't receive it until Monday, the 23rd. That's a total of 12 days, so they still missed the mark. A simple "FYI/just in case" e-mail would have prevented me even having to visit their website, let alone get into this with them on their discussion boards.


( 15 comments — Comment )
Nov. 20th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Question...if they had updated the website to explain that they were experiencing delays, would that have been sufficient? Just wondering...
Nov. 20th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
I think it would have been sufficient for their general customer base, but I think further notification specifically to those customers waiting on orders would be needed. It seems like they expect every customer to subscribe to their announcements feed or visit their website often to know what's happening with their specific order. What other company does that? That's weird.
Nov. 20th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
I agree with you - they should have sent out an email to all customers with pending orders if they were experiencing delays. Posting it on the web site or in their forums is not cutting it, in my opinion. And thinking big companies don't do stuff like that is just wrong. Sounds more like a "we don't have the resources" small company problem that a big company probably wouldn't have. I mean, if there's *anything* even vaguely screwy about an order from Amazon, they email you immediately. If something's going to be delayed, they even give the option of canceling the order b/c they realize some people need to receive their orders by X date and may want to go elsewhere to get the item in time.

IMO anyway. :)
Nov. 20th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
What's even more interesting is that in one breath he complained that other companies don't have any communication at all (which, as a customer, he didn't appreciate), then in the next says that if I don't like it, well, too bad. WTF? You'd think his experiences as a dissatisfied customer would make him MORE likely to provide better customer service, not less.

And this is not even a medium-sized company that they couldn't gather all the e-mails together and send out an "FYI" e-mail to all their pending orders.
Nov. 20th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
I'm encountering this "self-service" bullshit in a large and growing number of places. The proponents call it "customer empowerment." I call it lazy and disrespectful. I have better things to do with my time than monitor people's web sites for fora. I expect that if I don't hear from someone that everything is working fine, and I expect some kind of contact when there's an exception. What's the point of collecting email addresses otherwise? (Oh, yeah, marketing.) So, no, I do not think your expectations are off. I think the new business model is.
Nov. 20th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
I also think their rather snotty tone to me is unacceptable, but of course if you say that, you come off as the snotty one. Oh, well. I wish there were another outlet for my business, but we'll see how enthusiastic I am about their products after this.
Nov. 20th, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
If I was being treated snottily, I would ask to speak to a supervisor and complain. No one in contact with customers, the life's-blood of any business, should be snotty. And if you're uncomfortable asking Joe Schmo to put his supervisor on, call back, get a different customer rep, and just ask to speak to a supervisor from the get-go. If you just keep asking that, they will eventually give up and put you through IME (hey, it worked on Dell tech support.

I've reached a point in life where, if any service provider*, including colleges and the like, is not giving me what I paid for or treating me with respect, they are going to hear about it further up the chain of command, because my money and I can go elsewhere.

*barring virtual monopolies where no other acceptable option exists
Nov. 20th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
Alas, it was so small, I was talking to probably one of the only employees, and probably one of the co-owners at that. I don't think there was anyone further up the chain. This was also done online, not over the phone.
Nov. 20th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
People like you make my job harder, Alan! Gah!!
Nov. 22nd, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
Sorry. Customer's always right. :P
Nov. 21st, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Are you at your best when you're coming down with the flu, recovering from the flu, are doing 2-3 times your normal work because your coworkers are out with the flu? Who should have sent those emails, and what should that have slacked on to make it happen? Under the circumstances, I'd cut them some slack.
Nov. 21st, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
Also, processing and shipping estimates are generally in business days, not calendar days. THey're still within range if you don't count the weekends.
Nov. 22nd, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
They did not qualify business days, and I think if they did, *that* would be unreasonable (i.e., 7-10 days is not unreasonable, but if you add in weekends, that becomes 9-14 days, which I think is).
Nov. 22nd, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
Sorry, but that's really not my problem. Plus, I'm not even saying they should work themselves to the bone - a *little* communication now saves a *lot* of bad PR later. That's customer service 101.
Nov. 21st, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
very poor customer service
( 15 comments — Comment )

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