How not to treat your customers

In the past couple of months I have had occasion to order a number of items from various online vendors. Most of these arrived at my doorstep without any delays of other hitches. But two of them got hung up.

I had already been charged for the items and I needed them. And not being a particularly patient person, I began to inquire as to their fate.

Both of these sellers were individuals, not large online resellers and both represent the kind of small, made in America businesses I am so fond of praising. So I was not inclined to be heavy handed with either of them. I simply inquired as to the status of my order and asked for a realistic ETA.

In both cases I was given a laundry list of personal problems ranging from sore backs to deathly ill family members. In addition, one of them told me that he had been at a conference and invested several lengthy paragraphs telling me how poorly his employees had performed during his absence and how that had caused further delays in his being able to ship product.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I don’t understand that life can throw curves, some of them pretty vicious. And I do realize how difficult finding reliable employees can be. But I think this is one of the worst things you can lay on your customers. For the most part, they don’t want to hear all about how difficult your life is. They just want their stuff. In my case, I would have much preferred to be told simply, “Sorry, I’m running behind and will get your order out as soon as I can”, maybe accompanied by some token “throw in” to make up for the delay.



  • keithm says:

    Might I suggest:

    1. Say you are sorry.
    2. Fix the problem.
    3. Give the customer a care token (in your words, a “throw in.”)

  • RLight says:

    I certainly agree. Here’s a good news story to balance your recent experience: I ordered 50 tenoned walnut knobs from a company on the East Coast. The knobs arrived and the package seemed light…sure enough, wrong konbs–no tenons. I called the company (I believe them to be a small business) and they shipped out 50 replacement knobs the same day…and told me to keep the un-tenoned knobs they had missent. Whenever I need wooden knobs, you can guess where I will shop…

  • Royce Hughes says:

    The key for me is to try to view every situation in which, for whatever reason, I’ve failed to do my best as “AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXCELL”. I ask myself “What’s the best solution for my client that I can reasonably provide?” Focus you energy on the future; not the past.

  • Jon Walpole says:

    Isn’t it Murphy’s law, something to the effect of… the items you need most are the last ones to arrive? Or how about machines only break down just before weekends or holidays?


  • John Eugster says:

    The same is true when you find a company you like you’ll always go back to them. I’m working on a TV lift cabinet and made about 4 attempts to get information from the website as well as their supposed local reps. No reply of any kind. I then went to a company in Phoenix by the name of Nexus. They phoned me the next morning after my email inquiry and I’ve called them at least 5 times for some installation help and believe it or not — actually talked to a real person that was able to help me out! Will I use and recommend them, you can count on it. Lately I’ve heard news stories that customer service isn’t what it used to be because people are afraid of losing their jobs. I don’t know, if I was in that position I’d bend over backwards to please the customer and keep my self employed. Come to think of it, as a one man shop that’s what I do anyway.

  • imdrmarshall says:

    I have to start off with…. even though i am not that old (33) i seem to look at the world through the eyes, ears, and certain expectations on the whole “customer service” aspect of a business…well any business..of some one twice my age. i guess it is just that i paid attention as southern hospitality happened naturally all around me when i was a child, or all these people that call me “an old soul” may be on to something. maybe its just that i believe that, if you are providing a service to someone (especially one where you are getting paid), then you not only OWE it to your customer to give 110%, but i believe you owe it to YOURSELF to not accept anything but your best. i guess i just think one should always hold themselves to the highest standards, because if you give nothing less than your best at all times, then you dont have to worry about your customers (or who ever), receiving anything less than the best customer service possible…. never GIVE any less than what you expect in RETURN….
    ok i will get off my soap box now….i just hold this subject up to the light… sometimes a little close i suppose…

    i guess this is where i say sorry you had to read this, and thank you for reading it…HAHAHAHA

  • Americans need to realize that losing a lot of our manufacturing business to the cheaper overseas labor it becomes much more incumbent on us to have superior customer service. And since many baby boomers are entering that age where customer satisfaction is more important than price it makes good sense and good business too.

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