Customer Service

I am sensitive to matters of customer service.  I put myself through under-graduate school with sales and customer service jobs, and doing it well.  I know that the key to good customer service and return business is relatively simple and boils down to being polite, keeping customers informed (before and after the sale) to minimize surprises, being competent, and owning up to your mistakes if you make any.  “I’m sorry” goes a long way.

The flip-side of course is that there can be bad customers and times when customers take all of your efforts at good customer service, ignore them, and in general become more hassle than they are worth.  I learned in real life that customers can cost you more than they bring in and that point you need to sever your ties to them.

Not long ago I had a customer who purchased a product and then a month or more later we had the following exchange (paraphrased):

Him: Hey, I bought this stupid game of yours and it doesn’t do such and such it’s useless.
Me: I’m sorry, that’s the equivalent of a house rule and not something I thought to put into it as I don’t play that way.
Him: Well without it the thing is worthless and I spent a ton of money on it [Note, the most expensive thing I sell at this point is L$ 250]
Me: Well, I was going to revisit it soon to make some other enhancements I can see if I can add it then.  You would get an upgrade then since I always upgrade my products for free.
Him: You should, it’s stupid without it.

It was at this point that I refunded the guy’s money and made a note to myself that he would not get an upgrade.  Basically I decided that less than US $1 was worth my time to a player who had already decided he was not going to happy despite the fact that I apologized, the fact that I offered another solution, and the fact that lots of other people had played this game with great success.

Contrast this to another exchange that I had, one that started via IM->e-mail while I was at my day job. Paraphrased again,

Her: Hey I bought your Shuffle Vendor and when I put in 24 hours for the interval or more the display is garbled, does that mean it is still work?
I’m sorry, I didn’t think of someone putting in more than an hour since that is what I originally used it for. It’s still working, when I get a chance I’ll take a look at the code.
Thank you so very much.

There was more to the conversation, but the customer was so gracious that I logged into Second Life on my lunch break, upgraded the Shuffle Vendor, and got it out to the customer (upgrades went out to clients later in the week).

My points (and I do have them) are:

If you are a customer and you have a question or a concern, think about the human on the other side of the grid who is generally working for play money.  Be as polite and professional as they are and realize that most ‘problems’ are simply minor inconveniences and over-sites that most people will correct given the chance.

If you are a vendor, recognize the fact that there are customers you are never going to satisfy no matter what you do.  You could transfer your inventory to them for free or work for them pro bona indefinitely  and they would find a reason to complain.  While you are dealing with this customer you are losing others though wasted time and wasted creativity.  Cut these customers lose.  This was particularly hard for me to understand as I saw it as a failure to have a dissatisfied customer.

Customer service goes both ways and it is perfectly acceptable, as a last resort, to cut them loose.

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