I had a mediocre customer service experience recently. I was purchasing an item for Impact Hub that required a lot of back and forth, so there were lots of small touchpoints throughout the process. It wasn’t that any one interaction was hugely terrible, but when I looked back it was the entire process that could have used some love. In the end, we did not receive the final product that we should have, and the company was fairly dismissive – this last interaction was what finally prompted me to write the below email.
It used to not be like me to follow-up when I had a negative customer service experience; I used to just wave it off. But recently, especially in the last two years since I’ve started running Impact Hub, I’ve gotten much more diligent about providing written feedback when I have a poor experience – but I always ALWAYS include constructive criticism and reasons why I’m choosing to write. The reason for this shift is that I’ve come to realize how important this type of feedback is to a business owner. I believe that when customers choose to provide constructive criticism, it’s really them saying: “Hey, I really like what you are doing and would love to support you more with my money, but these few little things are making it difficult to do so. I spent my valuable time writing this email or letter to let you know what you can do to make these small things better so I can spend more money on your product!”
Here was the email that I wrote (obviously names have been changed):
I am fellow business owner, which is really why I’m writing this. Please know that I’m not personally offended by any of this – I really was just slightly taken aback at the whole process upon retrospect, and wanted to hopefully shed some insight and constructive criticism.
I haven’t had the best customer service experience throughout this process. I came to Acme, LLC because I wanted a better quality product than the provider we had been working with for the last two years. I first spoke with Harry, who explained to me your payment system. I wasn’t initially comfortable with having a credit card on file and committing to Acme, LLC for the product – precisely for the reason of what’s happening now. It wasn’t the most helpful phone call, and I ended it feeling like I was inconveniencing Harry.
Given, this is first time I’ve ordered this product from you but I’m still a relatively intelligent person who can follow instructions pretty well. Please understand that your estimate emails are quite confusing at first read. When I responded to Harry first, I gave the wrong reply. Harry wasn’t helpful but instead made me feel pretty stupid with some of the wording he chose. I’m sure that you guys work with a lot of people, but in my mind, if a new customer is confused about something, that’s an indicator to me to make our process as easy as possible to understand, even for the lowest common denominator. It was also pretty confusing to me why I had to go back into my email and email someone else to get printing and shipping scheduling – I thought that department should have made that easier for me and just CC’d my contact on the last email from them.
Really, the only positive interaction I had was in-person when I came into your store to look at the final product. The front desk clerk was pretty dismissive, but whatever. The woman who walked me through the hard copies was great, I wish I would have gotten her name. She was kind, patient, and helped me understand the different types of paper options, and also allowed me to take two of the proofs to work so I could confirm with my staff. Sally and Henry were also super helpful through the process.
This last interaction was kind of the icing on the cake. The customer service wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if we had gotten a great product out of it – the reason why I came to Acme, LLC in the first place. From my perspective, this is what I hear – ‘I’m sorry, this anomaly doesn’t happen very often but since it randomly happened to occur with your product, the only way we can fix it is if you pay way more than you initially wanted to pay.’ It’s a little amazing to me that you don’t guarantee your product – even though I’m probably a lower-paying client than you normally have, I think you should still guarantee your product on even the lowest payscale, or don’t offer that product at all.
I’d like you to fix this mistake for us, and not charge me extra. I’d like you to guarantee your product even if I’m paying less for it. If that’s not possible, that’s a big bummer. I will not pay extra for the higher version of your product, so I’ll just submit payment for the invoice I currently have.
So, my customer philosophy: As a proponent for small, local businesses, I believe that being a good customer means providing this kind of feedback where necessary. If I believe in a company, I’ll spend time to make sure they know how to be better next time.