Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Have Been Trying to Write a Customer Service Post Since We Opened, but Until Now, Couldn't Find Anything Funny in the Topic.

So many times have I started a customer service post. Every time something goes wrong, I want to write, "You're only as bad as your worst bookseller at his or her worst moment." And I include myself in that grouping.

Things go wrong. Not everybody likes our policies. People want us to break our policies about returns, for example, a bit tighter than with Schwartz. We moved much closer to other indie bookstores, and the world is moving that way in general. But all rules are situational, and we know that. And I'll bend a rule for a good customer.

Oh, and also, we do things wrong. There's that too. I make big mistakes sometimes, and I'm apologizing for that in advance.

All this leads up to yesterday's story. I'm working on the floor and get a call from a very, very, very, angry customer.

AC: I want to speak to the manager. Are you the manager?

DG: Yes, I can help you.

AC: The manager. I'm only speaking to the store manager.

DG: I'm the store owner. Daniel Goldin. I think I can help you.

AC: I am so pissed at this store.

DG: I'm sorry (natural instinct. Probably shouldn't ever be involved in a car accident that isn't my fault). What happened?

AC: My grandmother comes into your store all the time. She always shopped at Schwartz and she contines to shop there. So, she came in and bought four Windows books for nephew. It turned out he had a Mac. She brought them back and wanted the cash. You wouldn't give it to her because she didn't have a receipt. She was so upset she left without the books.

Later on I called back. I asked to speak to someone in charge and the woman said, "I can help you." I started talking about the books and she said, "I see them right here." My complaint started and the woman said, "Sir, people try to scam us about this all the time. We have to be careful."

I was incensed! How dare she accuse my grandma? (The vitriol went on for another 3-4 paragraphs but you get the idea. He was mad.)

DG: What was this woman's name?

AC: I don't know. She wouldn't tell me.

DG: What is my name?

AC: Um, I didn't write it down. I don't know (really, this interaction happened).

DG: It's Daniel. I don't want this to happen to you again. You should write it down. (OK, this broke the tension a bit)

Now here's the thing (and note that I'm dealing with this from our phone in the back right of the store). If your grandmother bought the books from us, we can figure out if she bought them through our Boswell Benefits program. We don't do this all the time, because it's a bit complicated. What's her last name? When did this happen?

AC: It's Van Damme. She came in on Black Friday.

DG: Boy, I don't recognize that name and I know a lot of my older women customers.

AC: She's in all the time. Everyone calls her Miss Lillian (yes, the name is changed).

DG: I don't have anyone on that program here. Is she on Boswell Benefits? That thing where we give customers a 5% coupon when they spend $100. Most people keep track of it by their phone number, just like the Schwartz program.

AC: Oh, Miss Lillian would never give out her phone number to anyone. That's private information.

DG: We don't use the number, give it out, sell it. And you don't have to use your phone number for the program. Anyway, she's not on it.

AC: Well, what are you going to do about it?

DG: I'm sorry all this happened, and I want to figure out what I can do, but first I really have to look at our sales, and talk to the person whom I think would have handled this.

End of dialogue.

I promise to call him back ASAP. I'm a little panicky about the whole thing. How could this have gone so wrong? And though I have an inclination to do whatever this guy says, I don't want to override the circumstances of what Amie (and it would have to be Amie, only she and Jason could really make those decisions without sending it "upstairs" in a weird situation like this.) But this really doesn't sound like Amie.

So I talk to Amie. She knows nothing about it.

I go look for the books, which were right in front of the woman who answered the phone. We can't find them anywhere. I check sales for Black Friday. No computer books sold.

The caller kept saying that his grandmother went to Schwartz and continued to shop with us afterwards. Maybe it was Next Chapter. I call. Nope, no computer books on hold. It couldn't be Open Book because they have no computer section.

I called back the customer and got his answering machine. Fifteen minutes later I called back again. No answer.

It's been another day and we never heard back. Do I keep calling? Did the caller realize it wasn't our store after all? Whatever happened, there was no apology. Was the whole thing a practical joke? There's not even a lesson in here!

OK then, maybe there is a bestseller list here. These could have been books she bought.

The Top 5 Windows Books, according to Ingram demand:
1. Windows 7: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue (and it's not even out yet)
2. Windows Internals, by David Solomon
3. Windows 7 Inside Out, by Ed Bott
4. Windows 7 Plain and Simple, by Joyce Jerry
5. Teach Yourself Visually Windows 7, by Paul McFedries.


Scot Colford said...

That is excellent, Daniel. I've always believed that you give the benefit of the doubt to customers and fully explain why you're doing what you're doing. If you're reasonable, it all works out properly.

dW said...

I love that you would try that hard to find a way to give the guy's "grandma" a refund. If it were a legit purchase, you'd have found some tracks to follow.

Karen said...

You've done all you possibly can and then some. And it's obvious no one at your store is to blame. Whatever the situation - scam or mistake - I think the person just decided to drop it. I've been in similar situations with people who are terribly angry over things that I/my employer had no control over. It's so frustrating.