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Customer complaints & merchant excuses

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Thursday December 31, 2009 )

The silly season is often followed by the complaints season. While some customers will whinge and exaggerate for the sake of it or in order to try and squeeze something out of a merchant they aren’t entitled to, others have valid complaints that need to be dealt with very carefully.

A colleague of mine was fuming that a notebook meant to arrive as an Xmas gift still hadn’t appeared by yesterday. So he jumped on the phone to complain and was put on hold for ages. You can imagine how steamed up he became the longer he waited. I was pitying the poor call center person who would have taken that call.

Then, a miracle – he was told his notebook would be arriving on his doorstep within 3 hours via express courier… and it did.

In his words, the company had redeemed themselves.

It may have been a different story if he was greeted with excuses as is often the case when people make complaints. You know the story; one department blames another or blames the freight company – there just doesn’t seem to be any accountability.

Customers who have a legitimate complaint do not want excuses. They don’t even want explanations. They want action and to be kept in the loop until the issue is resolved.

While you may not be able to pull a product out of what would seem thin air as in my colleague’s case; action can just mean progress. It can mean chasing up freight companies. It can mean offering a refund. It can mean offering a store credit. Anything that eases a customer’s pain or gives them (realistic) hope of a speedy resolution. Key to building that hope is staying in contact with the customer rather than have them chasing you.

Failing to do so can have dire consequences. It only takes one disgruntled customer who can string two words together to start posting really negative stuff about your company around the web. Others may see it and join in. Competitors may get wind of the poor review and also join in, posing as customers. That feedback is up there for all to see and if it ranks highly on Google for a search on your company name; you’re screwed. It *will* impact on your sales.

Big companies have been brought to their knees over a single complaint that has snowballed; but to a small online business it can be totally devastating. So when it comes to legitimate complaints; be pro-active; the time it takes can save a lot of heartache later on.


Dealing with aggressive customers.

Online reputation monitoring.


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