Thursday, August 7, 2008

Customer Service

**This is a long post, but a good lesson. It's worth it, I promise...**

I generally try to make the best out of most situations. I try to "put myself in other people's shoes" and see things from another perspective when bad/unfortunate/disappointing things happen in life. This is one of those things that I often pray God to give me more strength in... patience, perspective.

And honestly, if these following two incidences had not happened in the same day, I probably would not have thought twice about it. But it got me thinking, especially since I think customer service is such an important part of a business, and one that relies so heavily on customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals as photography does.

Shortly prior to Jodi's wedding I realized that a little more memory for my camera would probably be a good investment. So, I hopped on my favorite website and browsed CF cards. Low and behold! There were 4 GB cards for sale that were cheaper than some of the 2GB cards! I immediately ordered 3 (what a deal!) and paid a little extra in shipping to get them here the day before I would have to leave for the wedding. Now I'm sure you can all see what's coming...

Exactly. I didn't end up getting them before the wedding. Big surprise.

But what happened long after the wedding is really what surprises me. Today I left feedback for the four vendors that I ultimately dealt with trying to purchase these cards. Surprisingly my best experience was with the last vendor who I
worked back and forth with to receive a (more expensive, but still fairly cheap) 4 GB card. We shared multiple emails back and forth. And honestly, when I received their first email, I was highly disappointed. The email stated that they were out of stock - this was my 3rd vendor that I attempted to get the 4 GB card from. However, in their email they apologized for the inconvenience (it was, a big inconvenience, but hey - they admitted it), and offered me a 20% discount on a "replacement" item. To be honest, that right there stopped me from canceling my order completely. Because really, nothing came close to the deal on the original 4 GB cards. But I figured - "hey, if they're willing to give me a 20% discount, I'll give them a shot. I need more memory anyway."


Ultimately I ended up with a memory card that I am happy with, and at a good price, but was disappointed that I missed out on the awesome deal (that apparently everyone else who has ever been to Amazon purchased before I did). And I wrote my description here... almost exactly... as my feedback on Amazon. I wrote that I was disappointed, but received the item I purchased, and that the customer service was good.

Well, their customer service isn't good. It's great! Of course this vendor saw my feedback, and immediately emailed me. They (again) apologized in this email:

Hello Dawn,

I just saw the feedback left and we understand your disappointment. Customer service is our number one priority, we would like for you to have a good shopping experience with us, therefore have issued a full refund to your credit card.

Thanks for your business, we hope to have improved your experience with us.

Best regards,

I was very surprised, I did not intend to get a refund as a result of my feedback. I received the product as promised by the company, nothing more nothing less. And the feedback that I left was fair and honest (and I left a few stars - I didn't give them a "horrible" rating if you're wondering). To be honest, their dedication to customer service and the resulting refund really improved my image of this seller, and I plan on purchasing from them again because of this experience, which actually began rather negatively.

However, I had a very different experience from another one of the sellers that I left feedback for today. The feedback I left stated that I was disappointed with the service that I had received. I again received an email from this seller, however they asked if I could remove the feedback. I politely replied that I felt that my comment was fair, and reflected my experience, and that as a customer, I would have wanted to hear any similar experiences prior to making a purchase from them (or any seller), especially if I was under a time crunch like I was. They responded in a harsh, accusatory tone, demanding that I remove my comment. This response left me stunned, staring at my computer screen in disbelief. Did this seller really think that their email was going to "earn" my business (much less entice me to remove my comment)?

Customer service is one of the most important facets of business (along with knowing your skill, but really, if you know how to sell CF cards, but do it with a bad attitude, how many repeat sales are you going to make?).

Today was a good reminder for me just how important customer service is. And how a good attitude, and bending over backwards for your customers will go a lot further for you than being angry and rude. And honestly, if these two encounters had not happened in the same day, I probably would have been really grateful for the first vendor, and just written the second one off and not thought about it again (other than being annoyed).

Has anyone else experienced similar situations that just make you sit back and wonder how on earth they're still in business?

Photo from here


Jodi said...

Great reflection. I consider my work with students customer service-like and don't understand other departments who fail to put the "customer" first (or even at a semi-priority). I feel this contributes to why CALS is so awesome! If it wasn't for the students, I wouldn't have a job-right?!

PS- thanks for dinner last night. And I can't wait to get the announcements in the mail, they are going to look great!

Jon Barmore said...

Well Dawn,
I'm glad to see you took the "high road". I am definitely one who responds (positively and negatively) to customer service. The worst part about the second company is that with the internet, they don't need to be nice. There'll be 1000 more people tomorrow who'll buy because of the low price and not care about the feedback. :( But deep down, keep in mind that you can (and apparently will) reward the company with good customer service. Even if it only matters to you and that company, it's a good thing. That's why Dana and I have always preferred "mom amd pop" stores as opposed to "Faceless Megacorp, Inc."

Dawn McKinstry said...

Jodi - very true. customer service isn't limited to "selling" transactions. Although, in your case, I guess you are "selling" the college. (so in reality, we're all "selling" something - even if no money ever changes hands) Without your "customers" (aka students) you would be out of business (along with thousands of other people employed by UF).

Jon - I agree. I prefer the "mom and pop" business myself. It's too bad that it's getting harder and harder for those type of businesses to stay afloat these days.