We aren't perfect. We make mistakes. One of the most important things to us is ensuring a great customer experience. If we make a mistake, we will 100% make it right. However, sometimes customers are in the wrong. Sometimes their demand/ask is not realistic or reasonable. Whoever said ‘the customer is always right’, was wrong.
In this article, I will outline three talking points and go down the rabbit hole on each.
- Customer mistakes or problems outside of our control
- We don’t negotiate with terrorists
- We are not Amazon
Customer mistakes / Problems outside of our control
For this bucket, I will give some examples:
- Customer entered an incorrect shipping address (or forgot to change their address).
- Item was delivered, but they never received it.
- Customer ordered a subscription but did not read details and ignored our multiple emails outlining expectations.
These scenarios used to be difficult for us on what to do. You want the customer happy, but oftentimes the solution the customer wants will mean you are now unprofitable on the customer. At the end of the day we are a business and if we make consistent unprofitable decisions, we will not be in business for a very long time. A couple of years ago, I was chatting with Anthony Coombs of Splendies about this bucket of tickets we always get and he walked me through how they handle. This was a ‘aha’ moment for us and we instantly implemented a similar version to what he described. We created a tagging automation in our ticketing system where if the Lifetime Value (LTV) of a customer is above a certain number, they get a special tag. When customers with this tag run into one of these issues, we take care of them. Based on the LTV metric we selected, we know we are still profitable on this customer (maybe barely). We also know going above and beyond in this scenario will likely net us an even higher LTV.
We don't negotiate with terrorists
For this bucket, here are some examples:
- Customer reaches out making unreasonable demands and telling us that if we don’t do this, they will tell all their friends and give us bad reviews anywhere they can.
- Customer post negative reviews everywhere they can and then reaches out telling us we need to do X in order for them to remove their bad reviews.
- Customer disputes the charge with their financial institution and then reaches out to us afterwards looking for additional concessions.
Perhaps these tactics work for a brand that is scared to death of bad reviews and perhaps these tactics used to work on us, but they do not work on us anymore. We respond to these tickets the same way we would respond to them if the threat was not present. We address the actual problem and offer the appropriate resolution. We stick to our defined process and resolution guide and we do not veer from it. This does mean we occasionally will receive a bad review, but we will respond to it appropriately if that platform allows responses and we know that the good reviews will outweigh the 1 review from the terrorist.
Regarding disputes, when you go that route, that is the path we are going down to as well. There is already a fee charged to the merchant when the consumer hit that dispute button so that is where the communication and effort will be focused. Here is a great article from Forbes on When you Should / Shouldn't dispute a credit card purchase. Oftentimes you have a consumer trying to dispute the charge and also asking for you to send the item again. Most of these cases, the consumer is fully aware of what they are doing.
We are not Amazon
Amazon has an AMAZING customer experience. What most people do not realize is that the merchant pays the price of this. Don’t like your item for any reason at all? You can send it back to Amazon and they will have another one sent your way. In this scenario, the merchant is normally eating ALL of the additional costs associated with this (sending out the additional product or paying for the refund). Here is the kicker, that original product that was returned that might actually be completely fine is no longer sellable on Amazon so the merchant went backwards in just about every scenario.
The regular consumer does not understand this or a basic understanding of business (nor should they), they just know ‘Amazon would do this for me’. Amazon has simply set an unrealistic bar of expectations that the vast majority of ecommerce businesses cannot compete with (profitably).