My hobby is entering giveaways. It’s probably akin to a gambling addiction but it doesn’t cost me a penny and I win some pretty cool stuff. Last week, I won a $25 gift certificate to a gourmet food company that I had never tried.
Last Friday was free shipping day, so it was the perfect day to get the best out of my win. Except for the fact that the system they use sees a gift code as a discount code so I could only use my gift certificate or get the free shipping, not both. Why? A gift certificate is money, not a discount. Determined to fix this, I called the company’s toll free number in the early evening, California time. I was directed to the “customer service” line which was a recording saying they were closed. Hmmm.
Next, I tried to email my question. I got a response on Monday. Three days after the fact. The response was one line. “Call us to discuss.” Seriously? So I called and got a very soft spoken, uninformed woman who seemed to be looking around the office as she spoke, desperate to find someone with knowledge to put on the phone. She couldn’t find anyone and said they’d have to call me back.
Incredibly, they did call me back and I explained the issue and was told, yes, this is how it is, can’t have free shipping and use a gift certificate. Also, my detailed order had disappeared from the shopping card so I had to start over.
Now, right here is where the customer rep should have said, let me take your order over the phone and we’ll deduct the $14.00 shipping for your trouble. No. Her response was, ‘well, at least you still have the gift certificate so you’re not out anything.’ I then commented on the fact that it took three days to respond to my issue, let alone the fact that it was the holiday season. She informed me that the business is closed on weekends for religious reasons. Now, I appreciate their devotion, but is that anyway to run an online business? No customer support, not even a guy responding to emails over a weekend leading to a holiday?
Now you could say, hey, Cynthia, back off, you’re getting something for nothing, right? But I’d say, that’s not the point. The point is, their company made a marketing decision to get bloggers to offer a giveaway. It was a good decision because giveaways are a great way to introduce your brand to new people, like me. I had never heard of the company, so I was a potential new customer. But what the marketing person accomplished, they wiped out with bad customer service and a quibble over $14.00. They could have offered me an extra item for my trouble and I would have paid the shipping and been happy. I would have been out singing the praises of the company instead of telling everyone I know not to buy from them.
My point is a simple one – marketing is hard work. Getting potential customers through the door, virtual or otherwise, is hard work. Don’t let bad customer service ruin everything you’ve worked for. You don’t have to have highly-trained customer service reps working round the clock. In this case, an apologetic, properly written email on Monday morning would have gone a long way.
Here’s what I recommend. Ask a friend to buy something from your company. Follow the whole process from clicking through an ad or email to the final delivery. Then ask them to grade the process including ease of purchase, the tone and effectiveness of emails, packaging and delivery time, and, if they do have a problem (maybe you could make one happen), the customer service response.
Test your own systems and I hope you’ll be nothing but pleasantly surprised.