'Dealing with Difficult Customers in 3 Easy Steps!'
by Lynn Dralle, The Queen of Auctions
This Christmas, Houston and my mother could have been difficult customers. My mom bought Houston a soccer jersey on eBay for one of his Christmas presents. The jersey he picked out was Lampard, but the one we received (from China and not Canada as we assumed from the listing) was Ballack. Houston and my mom were not happy!
The seller was not overly nice about it and insisted that we return the item to Canada. The seller would pay for the shipping and refund our purchase price plus s/h both ways. I have to admit that it was a pain to return it. And we have the post office and UPS picking up from us daily! I can totally sympathize with customers who have to return items that don't have the luxury of daily pick up.
Anyway, we got it returned and are waiting for the refund. Hopefully it will come through soon, so Houston can buy the correct jersey.
Here is what the jersey was supposed to look like.
The holidays are a time when both buyers and sellers can get frustrated. I just spent 20 minutes in my eBay office with Carmen discussing how to deal with one unruly customer. And while we were talking, the customer sent us three rude emails. Help! What a waste of our valuable time! I am sure many of you can relate to this scenario.
We shipped an order to this "new" eBayer. She only has 26 positive feedback points. She claimed that 1⁄2 of what she ordered is missing and that of the six dinner plates and four cup and saucer sets she should have received, she only got three dinner plates and two cup and saucer sets.
To back up her claim, she says that the box only weighs five pounds but that on the UPS label we claim that it weighs ten pounds, so she knows that her dinnerware did not get sent to her.
Carmen remembers shipping the entire set of six plates and four c/s sets, and in fact, everything in this pattern is missing from the original shelf where it was stored.
What to do now? Here is how we deal with these types of problems.
1. Kill them with Kindness
Because eBay is all web-based, we never actually get to meet or talk to our customers. We think that this is one of the big reasons that customers can come across as being rude. They are "faceless" to us and we are "faceless" to them. This is why it is important to try my first step in the process and "Kill them with kindness."
My grandmother always said, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and she is right! The first thing we do is email the customer and be overly nice. Here is a sample email,
We are so sorry that your order appears to be incomplete. We do remember packing all of your dishes and we have nothing in this pattern left in the office. Would you do us a BIG favor and go through the box again? Oftentimes, the missing pieces get lost in all the packing peanuts we use to insure the safe arrival of your items.
Thanks so much for your business and sorry for any inconvenience.
Then we wait for them to respond.
If their response comes back and our original email didn't work, we request their user ID information and actually call them.
This is a great part of "Killing them with kindness." Most customers are SHOCKED to actually receive a phone call about their order.
Here is a link on eBay to where you can request a user's contact information.
Once I have their phone number, I will call them and go over the problem with them by phone. More times than not, they won't answer and I end up leaving a message.
Once we have tried by email and phone, with still no resolution, we move onto step number two.
2. Offer a Partial Refund
Offering a partial refund works wonders. This can really keep your return costs down and make your customers very happy.
When someone is not satisfied with their purchase, or we have shipped the wrong item, or part of a shipment arrives damaged, here is the type of email we send.
We are so sorry that your item arrived damaged. Would a partial refund help? Please let us know how much of a refund would make you happy.
Thanks for your business, sorry again and thanks for understanding.
Asking them to name the price also keeps the cost down as most people will be embarrassed to ask for too much.
If your customer doesn't go for the partial refund and expects a full refund, and it really doesn't warrant a full refund, ask them to return everything by mail to receive that refund.
I can't stand it when a customer thinks that just because a tiny part of the order was wrong, or something broke in shipping, that they should get everything for free. This happened to us recently with some rooster bowls (that I listed during Live Boot Camp 2009). There were 3 Williams Sonoma Rooster Pasta Bowls in the order that had sold for $9.99 each--a bargain.
Here is one of those bowls.
The woman first insisted that one of the bowls was broken and she wanted her entire purchase price plus shipping refunded. Give me a break (ha ha)! When we wouldn't refund the entire price, she then claimed that two were broken.
At that point, Carmen and I decided to ask her to ship everything back for a full refund. She did ship us back two bowls and the 2nd bowl that she said was broken had a small nick on the footer. Not a break at all!
A nick on the footer just doesn't matter, so I relisted the two bowls in my eBay store at a higher price, $19.99 each, to cover the cost of the shipping for the refund. Hopefully, they will sell soon!
If all else fails, and you are still being bothered by a customer, move on to step number three.
3. Block their User ID
Because there are some bad eggs out there, who will hold us for feedback & PayPal hostage, we do have one final option. These customers who expect the moon and are not happy with any of our attempts to make them happy, will be blocked from ever buying from us again.
To block a buyer, all you have to do is copy their user ID and paste it into the bidder block list. Here is what eBay says about Blocking Bidders:
If you don't wish to sell to certain eBay members, you can put them on your blocked list. Members on that list will be unable to bid on any of your listings until you remove them from the list. You can block up to 5000 User IDs.
- To block a member, enter the member's user ID and click Submit. Separate user IDs with a comma.
- To remove members from the blocked list, select the members' user ids and delete them. Remember to inform the members so they can resume bidding on your items.
Here is a link to find that page.