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  • #979422
    IronMaiden
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    In general 99% of our customers are wonderful people to work with. However in the 6 years we’ve been in business I’ve come across less than half a dozen that really stand out – those that never seem to be happy.

    Our products are large and bulky, most being gates, and as anyone who relies on delivery companies knows, having items arrive safely is a gamble. Our success rate is pretty good, on average 1.5% are damaged – that’s about three out of every 200 deliveries. We try to be as transparent as possible, advising customers that we can arrange delivery on their behalf, at their own risk and that there’s always a chance of damage, and as a back up offer optional insurance. Our paperwork clearly states that “by paying a deposit you understand and agree to these conditions”, ie delivery is your responsibility and at your own risk. Despite this few people take up the insurance.

    This last month has been challenging. I’ve had a gentleman who, despite being told that our turnaround time is 6-8 weeks, started to phone us from week 3 asking how things were going and when his gate would be ready. We got calls almost weekly and he began to complain. As you can imagine right on week 6 he started to get more demanding. The gate was ready just before completion of week 8 and was shipped out. Last week we got a call saying the gate had arrived but it was scratched (possibly superficial scratches). No insurance had been taken and they’d signed for the delivery. He now wants a replacement and had a huge bleat about poor customer service – something I’m not taking on as I’ve had many, many other people come to us because we do offer good customer service.

    What would you do?

    1. Stand your ground and politely refer back to the terms & conditions that the customer agreed to? ie you didn’t take out insurance.
    2. Disregard your terms, fix the gate and risk sending it back – hoping it will appease him?
    3. Refund the money less freight, & get the gate returned to you? (He probably won’t be happy anyway).

    I hate disappointing people but sometimes you just can’t please customers no matter what you do. I often wonder if the saying “the customer is always right” should be adhered to. Is it worth trying to please these particular people at the cost of your own welfare? How have others handled similar situations?

    #1114179
    Michael [The Mac Experts]
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    To be clear, who purchased and organised the shipping? If it was the customer who organised it and it was damaged in shipping – it’s definitely the customers responsibility.

    Admittedly, I have no idea what the cost difference is between sending an uninsured vs insured gate. But if your business is performing the shipping, I think by default you should give the shipping price as the insured amount. Then if the customer gawks and says “That’s too expensive”, at that point offer the uninsured amount.

    That way, when such a customer as you describe comes along your strategy can be to bluntly tell them “Our standard offering was with insurance, you specifically bargained with us for an alternative and uninsured method – I’m sorry, but you’ll have to take it up with the shipping company…”.

    So given your current dilemma, if attempting to fix the issue is going to break the bank then I would enforce the terms of service. If however you can fix the problem and make the customer happy, I would go that direction then look closely at the business practices to protect against this from happening again in the future.

    To give you an idea of the problems we have in our industry, and how we fixed it here’s an example:

    We used to have very angry customers yelling at us whenever they lost their data and photos due to a faulty hard drive in their computer. The customer would *always* take it out on the technician, and the entire experience for both the tech and the customer was awful, especially once the customer found out that potentially trying to recover their data would cost hundreds to possibly thousands.

    The solution I came up for this problem was simple but works so well, we now offer a free backup recovery. So when a customer is yelling at the technican over the phone, screaming “I’ve lost all my data! What are you going to do about it!” our tech kindly says “If you bring your backup in, we’ll happily restore your backup completely free of charge”.

    At this point, 99% of those angry customers are angry because they know they haven’t got a backup and are taking their frustration out on us. They step down a notch and say “Oh…. I don’t have a backup” and right there! The frustration turns away from the tech, to frustration with oneself for learning the valuation lesson that one should always backup. This works so well, while the customer is bummed about their data, we typically turn this into a further sale by selling the customer a backup hard drive and training on how to properly backup.

    My point is, if 1.5% of the time (a large percentage, in my opinion) in shipping orders there is a problem – I think you need to solve this issue early on and prevent it. While I can’t pretend to understand your business, I think by default providing an insured service is a step in the right direction as it gives you a more friendly approach in saying “Well, you choose not to take our standard insured shipping option…”

    #1114180
    Greg_M
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    I sometimes get a client like this, seem to think the universe revolves around them and provides them with an edge over everyone else on service and price.

    I usually bend over backwards to satisfy client’s, all the usual stuff, late nights, family second but just occasionally I get one that I just want to punch.

    In your situation I’d probably take the gate back, give him his money and not have any more dealings with him, perhaps I’m wrong but in my experience this type of person is like a dog with a bone and they keep coming back to haunt you.

    I guess with this option you get stuck with a gate that’s custom built and owes you money but you do get the satisfaction of leaving him without one and no one to negotiate with.

    Possibly not a strategy your accountant or bank manager would approve of.

    Good luck with it, whatever option you choose.

    #1114181
    Past-Member
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    Are your gates spray painted? Why not send out a touch up spray can with every set of gates and state that insurance is obligatory now and add it to the cost and you arrange the shipping. Otherwise, no responsibility can be taken for delivery if they organise it themselves.

    In this particular case, is the gate painted? Can you send the touch up spray can?

    Just trying to think laterally here for you.

    .

    #1114182
    Shoes2u
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    I would call him up and ask him if he will keep the gate if you give him a discount.

    I get this occasionally with shoes we send out. I say you can send them back and if I agree with the problem you can get a refund including postage. Or you can keep them and I give you x amount of discount – most people take the discount.
    You need to call and negotiate in person email does not work for this.

    #1114183
    bluepenguin
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    If you are not in the wrong, why should you pay for it with refund or discounts or spraypaint?

    There are times when the repeat business is worth paying for, but it doesn’t sound like this guy is going to hang around.

    I would just politely tell him that you inspected the gate before it left the factory, it was fine, and there’s nothing more you can do – unless he pays for repairs.

    If he commits to paying to have it fixed, you could then maybe think about offering a discount to make peace… but only after the ball’s back in your court.

    #1114184
    Steve_Minshall
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    bluepenguin, post: 127974 wrote:
    If you are not in the wrong, why should you pay for it with refund or discounts or spraypaint?

    Because in this wonderful age of google places, social media and the like every angry dude with an iphone has the power to trash you.

    Here is my story that has driven me nuts this year:

    Our business has made over 20,000 sales transactions over its history and do you know how many positive reviews we have had on google? -ZERO. So out of twenty thousand transactions we didn’t do a good enough job for someone, anyone, to take the time to give us a good review. Even when we have blown people away by going the extra mile and turned down extra payment with the suggestion that they go and give us a good review. Many people have said ‘yes of course’ but none ever have.

    However, we had one person at the start of the year phone up with a question about a piece of towing equipment. Because he didn’t get the answer he was looking for he complained on google place’s. His complaint was he was called ‘Sir’ too many times (thought he was being patronised), was told he would be better coming into the shop where we could compare parts to his vehicle (interpreted as incompetent because his question couldn’t be answered on the phone).

    Ok, it was obviously one of those conversations where both parties struggled to get their point understood and could have been handled better. But in terms of bad customer service it is nothing to get lynched over.

    So after this, if you searched “roof racks Sydney” our No1 Google Place listing that we were so proud of, was followed in bold text by “Don’t Bother!!!”.

    I have only just got rid of this after months by swapping over to Google+ and dumping the places listing.

    So one person, who wasn’t even a customer (just a phone enquiry) was able to cause us who knows how much harm because he was having a bad day. It was anonymous so you can not even address it with the person involved.

    This is why I am terrified of Facebook for business, just look at what Target has had to cope with this week!

    Ebay does reviews well because it gets everyone to do them and the good will blast away the bad, but with google+, google maps the only reviews are either bad or contrived by the owner. If you simply deliver what you promise you will not get a positive review because people simply tick off the purchase and move on.

    So to the original poster fully assess the damage this person can do to you on line while deciding what to do.

    #1114185
    IronMaiden
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    Thanks everyone for your different perspectives. It seems a common thread that these difficult or ‘toxic customers’ are of similar personalities. I think this person is just one of those “I want everything for nothing” kind of people who just refuses to take responsibility for anything.

    Complainers do so because they get something out of it – attention, winning an argument, being right, wanting to be heard, wanting to be in control, etc. Giving in to them sometimes works, sometimes not. Something I’ve learnt is that some people choose to be unhappy and make a habit of taking others along for the ride. As business owners we do have the right to choose whether we want to go along with them or nip things in the bud one way or another. How to do so, is the hard bit.

    Steve, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. Getting reviews is a whole other kettle of fish.

    #1114186
    Shoes2u
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    What was the outcome with this? Did you sort it out with the client?

    #1114187
    AGMBris
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    Hi

    Yes it can be difficult sometimes as small business owners cant it because we dont want to upset or well, stand our ground, sometimes in case there are ramifications from that said client. And of course the cost to us of delivering a service or product comes off our bottom line if we have to take it back.

    It sounds like 99% of your clients are the value part and concentrate on them I would say. This one, well, you have educated them as to what the risks are and they have to be responsible for that as well. I think standing your ground creates a strong presence for you, especially if you cannot bend due to cost and a loss placed on you.

    Tricky situation, good luck.

    #1114188
    Shane Walker
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    Hi IronMaiden! It’s Shane Walker here!

    One thing that my business mentors have taught me is that 20% of your customers basically cost you 80% of your headaches and 80% of your expenses. In saying that, he advised me don’t ever be afraid to sack a customer. You don’t have to deal with everybody and sometimes people are just far too painful and expect far more than what they are paying for.

    You must remember that you just can’t please everybody all the time. So I won’t be too discouraged about it. I would regard to take this kind of customers as just one of those people that nothing would make them happy anyway.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,

    #1114189
    IronMaiden
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    Anthony & Shane you’ve both pretty much summed up my thoughts on the matter. This person was one of 5 difficult customers we’ve had out of about 750 or more. The outcome was that he was manipulating the situation in the hope that the next few gates he ordered would be cheaper, or at least that’s how it was coming across. The outcome wasn’t pretty, he manipulated, made personal comments & tried threats (going to consumer affairs, not going to buy another gate). This just got my OH’s back up so he just ended up saying, “that’s your perogative” or “no” to the demands. This guy obviously wasn’t used to people standing up for themselves and saying ‘no’. He just wanted to argue, evaded the insurance bit, was irrational. The damage was barely more than a rub mark where it was going to be against the post anyway and the delivery had been signed as “delivered in good order” – so goodness knows when the damage actually occurred. Mountain out of a molehill stuff! In the end we posted a $12 cheque to cover touch up paint. Should make the customer feel he’s won and we’ve no qualms about ‘firing’ him.

    In regards to ‘firing’ customers, we’ve had a worse situation where the client (a designer!) was married to a big wig lawyer here in Adelaide. She stuffed up majorly and hubby decided that we should wear the blame to get her out of the poo. The long and short of it was that our solicitor just advised us to give in as it was going to cost us to defend (we would have won as we did nothing wrong and everything was in writing), but it wasn’t worth the emotional & financial cost and hassle. To quote one phrase he ran past our lawyer “They might win but in the meantime I’m going to make their life hell”. How some people behave just defies belief. I have another couple of words to describe these people … arrogant & sociopathic!

    #1114190
    SuzsSpace
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    Maybe I’m being cynical in my old age but my first thought was whether he’d damaged the gate himself during installation and wanted someone else to pay for his mistake.

    The other thought I had reading through this thread was with our holiday to NZ last year. Looking for places to stay in the Bay of Islands we found this promising looking hotel but the reviews were shocking, we chose somewhere else. When we got there we found the place closed and in the process of major renovations which would have addressed a lot of the negative reviews. Knowing the power of Google my OH decided to put up a reply to these reviews talking about the renovations, I hope this helped as it would have been terrible for them to open again only to have to close permanently due to poor reviews.

    #1114191
    IronMaiden
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    SuzsSpace, post: 128446 wrote:
    Maybe I’m being cynical in my old age but my first thought was whether he’d damaged the gate himself during installation and wanted someone else to pay for his mistake.

    No more cynical than I Suz. Dare I say the same thought had occurred to us especially in light of how minimal the damage was, where it was, and how the packaging was sitting around it in the photo he sent us. Hence why it was important to stick to facts – it left here in good condition, customer was made aware of risks, customer refused insurance, consignment was signed as having been “received in good order”. If it had arrived as per the photo sent to us they would have seen the damage immediately and shouldn’t have signed as being in good order. Customers are explicitly told “not to sign if items are damaged as it invalidates any insurance claim” (not that they had any).

    #1114192
    SuzsSpace
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    Glad I’m not the only one. Hope he stays well away from you in the future.

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