At the risk of opening myself up to a lot of criticism... could I ask the forum for customer service advice?
Here's the situation.
We had an international customer order 12 yards of a particular fabric (which we did have). For international shipping, it costs less to ship to flat-rate envelopes than it does to send it all together in one package. By a lot, actually: $43 versus $27.
So we e-mailed her to ask if she would prefer us to ship it all in one piece for an additional $16.
After a week had gone by with no reply, we e-mailed her again, asking the same question, and stating that if we did not hear from her in a couple more days, we would choose the less expensive option and send it as 6 yards each in two envelopes.
Now that she's received both packages, she is upset with us for having sent it in two pieces, plus she's upset for having to pay import fees on two packages instead of one.
Additional pertinent information:
- we *did* have (and use) her correct e-mail address
- for international orders our shopping cart calculates shipping based upon the number of flat-rate envelopes needed to hold the yardage purchased
- it's not possible for us to know what each country charges in the way of import fees and taxes (though we do keep up on this for England and Canada because we have lots of customers there)
What do you think? How should we have handled this? What could we have done better?
I think you handled the situation in a professional way. The lady didn't get back to you as to how she wanted you to send her order so therefore it's her fault not yours. You did everything a business person could do. If she wanted it done different maybe she should have replied to the email you sent with the shipping information.
I would not have shipped until I had confirmation as people can use "didnt receive correspondence" as an excuse to be unhappy.
You can't please everybody all the time. You did your best to contact her.
I think you handled it correctly. But you've probably lost a customer but not because of anything you did wrong. She should have responded to your email.
Wow this is a tough one because my two immediate thoughts go like this:
thanks for saving me money
I wanted 12 yards and you cut it without knowing how I wanted to use the material
But you were still in a tough spot with her because you did try to contact her and she wasn't responding but would have likely sent you an angry email for taking forever to send her the material had you just waited for a response.
You are a business and can't leave orders open eternally.
I think you did everything you could on yourside. (Was she given options when she placed her order? Usually websites have you pick how you want it shipped.) Regardless you did try to contact her twice about it. Stop beating yourself up.
I would send her a coupon for a certain % off her next purchase and leave it at that. If she orders again, do not ship it until you know how she wants it sent.
I just visited your online site and found your winter fabrics spectacular!
We would never send a single cut as two pieces unless specifically requested to do so. You don't know what the customer has in mind for the fabric. I've had customers that just wanted to use a long piece for bunting or draping and didn't care what it cost, to buy or to ship.
I don't know how your cart estimates shipping charges, but if it does and if the customer has accepted the estimate, that means they're willing to pay the charges. Trying to save the customer a few bucks on shipping is a noble effort, but not always necessary or even desirable.
We also won't overpack flat rate envelopes, the PO has every right to refuse them, or to send them back.
With hind-sight being 20-20 -
The only real suggestion I have would have been to just have held the fabric for the customer until she* responded.
She may have been in the hospital or something -
Did you have any phone numbers or other way of contacting her?
*"she" is being used generically here - as a substitute for "he/company/business/etc.")
I prefer to get a long length uncut.
maybe that second email should have been...we will hold this order until we hear from you due to all of the expenses involved with overseas shipments; maybe that would have attracted her attention enough to respond in the first place. i would not have shipped it without verifying. the extra import charges were probably more than the $16 savings, but she should have responded. you can set up email accounts to see if the recipient actually read the email or not, she could have been out of town or something and never saw them. i would have waited until i heard from her. i have received emails from on-line shops in the past telling me about a shortage or something, and they tell me we will hold your order until we hear from you; your order will be cancelled if no reply within 72 hours. if she had not seen the emails, when her order did not arrive i bet she would have been getting in touch with you. dealing with international shipping is always an 'issue'. between just the cost but then they add customs charges and if you do not put the right (thing) in the customs slip about what it is it can really cost. when i was shipping stuff i always put (gift) on the customs slip...that did not cost people so much when they went to pick up their package. we learned this doing a round robin program.
anyway. sorry she is mad, lesson learned on all sides. :(