Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Working Girl

Couple of things I have the urge to share after a discussion about customer service came up on FB.

Some of my customers actually read this blog, so before I begin, I wish to assure them, they aren't the people I'm referring to here - I'm sure they know that, by having been invited to this side of my life, but I feel a disclaimer is in order, just to be on the safe side.

I enjoy selling my trinkets, and I think that's fairly well-known. It's not just "a job". I manage to mix business with pleasure, and I feel this is an ideal situation. Also, because (I believe) I'm offering good products, at good prices, and a totally outrageous level of customer service, I'm doing quite well.

But it's not all good, and I think there comes a time when I should share the few aspects of it that aren't so good - they need to be said. I love being positive, but I also love honesty. As a people-watcher there are a couple of things about humans, that just make me scratch my head. OK, I just want to get it off my chest.

1. The fact is, it has been estimated by people who study this stuff properly, that in any situation of sales or service 3-5% will be unhappy. No matter what you do. You could sacrifice your first born, fall on your sword, or make the mountain move, they will still complain. Why?

Some people are just arseholes. That's just how it is. They may have had a tragic life, or it may just be a personality flaw, for whatever reason, they are never bloody well satisfied. They don't stop to think "am I being fair?" or anything even approaching it. They just complain. They do it in every aspect of their lives. If they were cured of a disease that is normally 100% fatal, they'd complained that the medicine tasted bad. If you saved them from being hit by a truck, they'd complain you got their new shoes wet. There is nothing you can ever do to make them happy, they don't want to be happy.

Among my feedback at eBay is the famous:

"Very pretty but not my style"

Why the hell she bought it will never be known. But she paid 99 cents for it, and still had to leave a remark like that.

Talking of 99 cents, the cheapness of these people never ceases to amaze me.

"shipping was a little pricey for what it is"

Because, you know, I can tell the Post Office to reduce their rates, when I sell something small and inexpensive. That she knew the shipping in advance and still bought it, baffles me too.

These people just don't think. There is no logic involved, and I have to remember that. Their reactions, even their written ones, are knee-jerk.

A couple of weeks ago I had a customer contact me asking me why the shipping was more than the stamp, before she left feedback. Well, at least she asked. It does explain this on the item description, the notification of shipping e-mail, and the store FAQ, but I patiently went through it anyway, she accepted it, and gave me good feedback. I am grateful for her thinking it through that much. But it ought to be fairly obvious.

When a person wins a pair of earrings at 99 cents, I make a profit. I'm not going to tell you otherwise. I wouldn't risk offering them at that price otherwise, I'm not stupid. But when you are the lucky winner of such a bargain, and you discover, on receiving it, as I have been told so many times, it actually looks nicer than it did in the photo, you should be happy. You really should. You liked the photo, you liked it enough to bid at auction for it, you were lucky enough to win it at the starting price, and now it's in your hands, it's actually better than you expected. Wow.

Most people would be happy. Most are. I get such good feedback. But 3-5% are not, because they never are.

Now I should add, both the comments above were on neutral feedback. This does not affect my feedback score, which is currently at 100%, because even though I've had a few actual negatives, I sell enough volume to keep it up. But 100% doesn't mean everyone is pleased. It means some leave neutrals, and some just don't bother to leave feedback. At least a lot of grumpy people are either too lazy to bother leaving feedback, or leaving nothing is their version of a neutral.

I actually get less nonsense on my feedback than some sellers, because the demographic of people who buy jewellery are different to, say, the demographic buying video games, or whatever. There's a whole psychology here, which I'm not going to get into right now, but it's one of the reasons I'm in the trinket trade. That 3-5% is probably closer to 3 than 5 when selling jewellery, for a variety of reasons, and not least because things look better in reality than in photos.

And this is an advantage of selling online. There is that delight factor. It may mean it's slightly harder to sell things in the first place, than in person, but it's very good for repeat business, recommendation, etc. The whole "better than expected" surprise is huge. There is no escaping it, selling online is different.

2. One way it is different, especially for places like eBay, but it can happen elsewhere, is the person who selects what they want to buy, confirms that they want it, either at auction or as a regular purchase, but then doesn't pay.

In a regular store, this simply leads to people dumping a few items, or a shopping cart, and leaving. Occasionally it leads to theft. But it generally doesn't lead to the vendor wondering if they are coming back or not. When somebody does this on a site like eBay, it means you wait. And you are expected to. Part of customer service expectations at eBay is reasonable patience with slow payers. After 3 days, you may, if you wish, alert eBay that you haven't been paid. Because of customer service expectations, most sellers, especially business sellers, and low-end sellers, give at least 7 days. People can get annoyed if chased too quickly or too often.

Can you imagine this anywhere else? Can you imagine your local supermarket or big box store smiling sweetly, and leaving your shopping cart waiting for you for 3 days or more, while you get round to paying?

I am used to it, accept it, and even understand it. That's how eBay works, that's normal, that's everyone's expectations. So, when, after 3 days I send a polite reminder, we all understand the system, everyone is smiling, meh, no worries.

After a week, my patience run out. If I get an e-mail saying "I get paid on the 30th, is it OK if I pay you then?" I always say "Sure! No problem." And mean it. If I get nothing, they just don't bother, then on Day 10, I lodge a complaint with eBay, or in fact, it's a complaint with Paypal really (the connection between the two companies is a bit complex, just take my word for it).

Sometimes this jogs their memories/spurs them into action. Suddenly. Like they were waiting for a final demand or something. I can almost guarantee that the same people who take forever to pay, will also be quick to complain when something doesn't arrive fast. Either they simply simply see the irony in that, or it's a silly tit for tat thing, who knows. But it hasn't occurred to them that had they paid for it quickly, they'd already have it by now......

But there are always a few who never pay. Why? OK, people change their minds, that's life, but by saying nothing, no request for cancellation or whatever, they get strikes against their account. Too many of those and you're out. So, they start a new account...but how dumb is that? It takes much longer to set up a new account than to fire off an order cancellation request. But again, that is looking at things logically, and there is no logic in bidding on an item at auction, or clicking on the "Buy It Now" and then the "Confirm Purchase" buttons, and then going no further.

I tend to assume, because I don't know (because they don't communicate) that in some cases this is because they only notice after "buying" that it's an item coming from Canada, and that the shipping is higher, and the delivery time will be longer. They can see this before they buy, but it's an attention thing. People are impulsive.

It's the nature o' th' beast.


Forgot a bit.

3. Among my neutral feedback comments is this:


Now, what am I supposed to make of that. A sad face. Not sad enough for a negative obviously, but......

When I ship an item, I send a notification of shipping e-mail that states:

"If you are not 100% satisfied, please contact us"

Which really shouldn't need to be said. If you are dissatisfied with something, I think we all know that the first thing to do is tell the person responsible. As it happens, I only check my feedback periodically. So I didn't even see this until two weeks later. Do buyers really think we check it daily? And/or that's we're psychic?

Do you know what this reminds me of? People who sulk very theatrically and wait for you to ask them what's wrong. I cannot stand behaviour like that, and it gets you nowhere with me. So this version of it was summarily ignored. There comes a point with customer service where you say "enough". I aim to please but I don't respond to sulking.

1 comment:

  1. Take a deep breath, Mel.

    I'm glad you got that off your chest.