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Thread: Seeking advice... what could we have done differently?

  1. #1
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    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?

  2. #2
    Junior Member cindle's Avatar
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    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.

  3. #3
    Super Member Murphy's Avatar
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    I would not have shipped until I had confirmation as people can use "didnt receive correspondence" as an excuse to be unhappy.

  4. #4
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    You can't please everybody all the time. You did your best to contact her.

  5. #5
    Super Member kristen0112's Avatar
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    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.

  6. #6
    community benefactor Conniequilts's Avatar
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    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.

    Hmmph......stumped :)

  7. #7
    Super Member MrsM's Avatar
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    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!

  8. #8
    QKO
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    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.

  9. #9
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    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.

  10. #10
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    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. :(

  11. #11
    Super Member Theresa's Avatar
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    Sounds like you did the fair thing. Without a response from her, you used your best judgement with the information available. Life is tooo short. Let it go. (I sure hope she is not trying to get you to lower the price.)

  12. #12
    QKO
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckcowl
    ... 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. :(
    Shipping merchandise as "gift" is a huge violation of international customs laws and can subject your business to large fines, seizures of the property, continued opening and examination of your shipments, etc.

    I wouldn't risk it...

  13. #13
    Senior Member adyldrop's Avatar
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    can't really add anything more to what everyone else said, but checked out your site...it's organized beautifully! love the themes section, love the options. methinks this one customer and your desire to do good to your other customers will keep you in buisness quite awhile...ps love the panels...the choices are inspiring...now i need money!!!

  14. #14
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    It was ten days from when she placed her order to when we shipped it. We don't like to "hold" fabrics more than a week, figuring that a week generally is plenty of time in which to reply. (How long is long enough to wait? Another good question.)

    Though... we do hold partial orders longer for international customers if we're waiting for a backordered item to come in... *and* if we've been in contact with the customer so they know what to expect.

    I, too, would generally prefer to receive the fabric all in one length. And I would have thought that's also what most of our customers would want. But in the vast majority of cases where we've asked what the (international) customer prefers, they say that they'd rather have the less expensive flat-rate envelopes, and they tell us what lengths to cut the fabric according to how they plan to use it.

    I would also have thought that our international customers would *always* want to fill up the envelope to capacity, but have found that customers in certain countries always keep it below a certain value, to avoid/lessen the fees.

  15. #15
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QKO
    Shipping merchandise as "gift" is a huge violation of international customs laws and can subject your business to large fines, seizures of the property, continued opening and examination of your shipments, etc.

    I wouldn't risk it...
    THANK YOU for posting this. It's an ethically muddy area with rules that people are tempted to "stretch", not knowing what the impact to all parties is.

  16. #16
    Super Member hobo2000's Avatar
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    I have problems like this everyday. I head the email "URGENT,shipment on hold" That gets their attention. I have clients that have meetings overseas, wait until 4 days before they leave and then want me to make the signs and ship to arrive for their meetings. 4 Signs cost $160.00, shipping overnight to Berlin, Germany 290.00. Should I or shouldn't I? I did and he had a heart attack with the price. You have to do what you have to do. He contracted me to do his signs and have them there by a given time. I did it and he finally paid.

  17. #17
    Super Member franie's Avatar
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    You can't please all the people all the time but you can please some people some of the time. You paid attention and did you best; all you can do and you did "good".

  18. #18
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    I would probably have said in the email, if we don't hear from you within "X amount of days" we will ship as stated in your original order.

    After I place an order, I may be gone on vacation/called away to a family emergency or I am periodically displaced due to flooding, and not have access to the internet/computer.

    So if I didn't respond to the email, I would expect there to be no changes to my order, unless what I wanted wasn't available. If I found out after I returned, that it could have been shipped cheaper? I might have been disappointed in not being able to answer the email, but I wouldn't take it out on you though. :D:D:D

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cindle
    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.
    DITTO
    I buy a lot of stuff from US and know about USPS env and what will go into them, had to find this out wasn't told ------YOU laid everything out so she has NO redress, don't stand for it!!!

  20. #20
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    "Displaced due to flooding"?

    Amma, is that why you're always "out searching for some sunshine"?

  21. #21
    Moderator tlrnhi's Avatar
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    I think you did the best you could.
    Trying to contact them and no response back after waiting a certain number of days. You did what you thought was best.
    If you lost that person as a customer, oh well....you still have the rest of us. :)

    Amma is ALWAYS flooded. lol

  22. #22
    Senior Member PurpleBecca's Avatar
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    I think you handled this very professionally.

    I agree with several others that you should maybe have said in the correspondance (that they ignored!) that you would not ship until you heard from them.

    Import taxes at thier end is totally there problem!

    I can see you were between a rock and a hard place on this one!!

    Leasons learned I guess.....

  23. #23
    Super Member amazon's Avatar
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    Something good that you can take from this.... you might offer a check button for this option. I would want the cheaper shipping unless of course I needed that 12 yds. whole.lol :-)

  24. #24
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amazon
    Something good that you can take from this.... you might offer a check button for this option. I would want the cheaper shipping unless of course I needed that 12 yds. whole.lol :-)
    You know, I'm not so sure that people know what to do with checkbox options.

    We already have one that allows the customer to specify what to do if our inventory comes up short:
    - send what there is
    - backorder the item (default)
    - cancel the item
    - contact the customer.
    We're grateful when a savvy customer picks something other than the default option. While I *thought* that having this checkbox option available would allow the customer to automatically answer all questions about what do (and save us time), in the end if we come up short, we still always contact the customer. 'Cause we've found out that most of them really didn't mean to have the default checked and they don't understand that they have the ability to specify what they want us to do.

    :|

    We try, honestly we do... !

  25. #25
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Write the subject of the email to get their attention. I would have sent one that said : Hey you want this fabric or not?

    I guess it's good I don't have a business that caters to the public. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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