Customer Service

Don Meadows, Editor

I ordered some hobby supplies online last month from a company I had not done business with before, but which had low prices and had been in business for several years. By ordering a certain quantity of one item, which I did, the company offered to include a free product.

            Within a few days, the first part of the order arrived. The next day, the rest of the order arrived – except for the free item. Later the next day, when I still hadn’t received the free item, I sent an email to customer service enquiring about it.

           No reply.

So, a week later, I called customer service and waited through 10-15 minutes of music and recorded messages before talking with a live person. The customer service representative apologized for the delay and explained that the packing order sent to shipping did not include the free item, which was listed on the invoice, apparently because of differences in the computer software. He said he would make sure the free item was sent.

            A week later, I still hadn’t received the free item. Ten days later, I sent another email to customer service. This time I got a reply, apologizing for the delay, in part a result of experiencing some staff changes and being busy, and noting that the free item had been back-ordered and would sent as soon as possible. Approximately two weeks later, the free item finally arrived (in an excessively large box).

            When shopping online, I tend to shop for the lowest price for the items I want. However, order fulfillment and customer service greatly influence whether I continue to do business with a company. Aside from the free item, this company ranked well in order delivery. Because of the mixed experience with customer service regarding that free item, however, I likely will hesitate to order from this company in future if another supplier can provide the items I want at a reasonable price. 

            A few of the lessons from this little story, for any company, include the following:

  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep — This applies to the quality of service you say you will provide, product specifications, on-time delivery, etc.
  • Maintain a unified order system — From point-of-sale to billing through inventory and shipping, everyone needs accurate information for order fulfillment and to keep the business going.  
  • Make sure you have the staffing and that your employees are trained to handle the job — Customers might be sympathetic to your staffing issues, but they don’t want it to affect their order.
  • Communicate with your customers — Never let a customer’s query go unanswered, and if you have problems or delays in fulfilling an order, let the customer know what that problem is and how you are going to resolve it.