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A rant about customer service

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I recently heard this story from a potential customer. It made me so mad, I want to rant about it.

The customer tried to order a custom pottery item online. The potter took 9 weeks to ship the item. The item arrived broken. The potter responded by telling the customer to file a claim with USPS.

This is @!#?!-level customer service on several fronts. The potter is taking no responsibility for their work. I really hope these attitudes are not widespread among those who do custom work, and those who sell online.

If you are taking custom orders, figure out a process for completing the work in a reasonable amount of time. 9 weeks is not a reasonable amount of time. In my studio, a full making cycle takes 2.5 weeks. If I took custom orders (which I don't) at most it would take 2.5 weeks.

When you ship a piece of pottery, you are 90% responsible for the outcome, based on how you pack the item. You assume the box will be dropped or kicked at some point. The carrier is responsible for the other 10%. The customer is responsible for 0%. 

If an item arrives broken, the customer should get a replacement, at no extra cost to them. None of this was their fault. This is another reason why you need to be able to produce work in a reasonable amount of time, because sometimes a replacement will be necessary. If the breakage was truly the carrier's fault, then YOU file a claim to try to get reimbursed. If you can't prove the carrier was at fault, then YOU eat the cost of the lost pot and lost shipment. This is why it's important to learn how to pack correctly, understanding that the outcome is mostly up to you.

If, for some reason, a replacement is not possible, then YOU refund the customer's money asap. Again, if you think the carrier is at fault, then YOU file claim with USPS/UPS/Fedex. Never make the customer do the legwork for getting their money back.

I am stunned that a potter actually did these things. I told the customer that instead of filing a claim with USPS, she should ask her credit card to reverse the charge. 

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Wow that's pretty bad.

But as far as filing the claim on behalf of the recipient it gets tricky because you need to have the damaged package, or have some way of turning it in to the carrier, and you receive the claim as well.  It is easier for the person receiving the package to file it, but you can at least offer to take care of it.  I have tried getting a customer to bring the damaged package to the post office before and they couldn't be bothered, so I just ended up eating the cost of the entire thing, and it was a custom aquarium, not as easy of a pill to swallow as a mug.

But it's pretty stupid to have that as your only solution.  In a situation like this I'd probably offer a replacement or refund and just forget about the damaged package and any sort of insurance.  IME, if the package isn't obviously damaged on the outside, they will criticize the packing and deny the claim anyway.

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Sounds bad. There might be a flip side to this though you didn't hear, or not.

Thanks for the rant. I think that every business needs to have clear policies and routines for how a damaged item is dealt with and follow that routine. Etsy requires it and they tilt to customers over vendors and too many complaints will get you thrown off the platform. We sell mostly in person but have shipped from time to time and have never had a problem. Everything is double boxed and heavily wrapped. That seems like the way to go with pottery. Seems like pictures can suffice instead of returns if you can tell its your pot but I don't think its unreasonable for someone to want the damaged item back if they feel like they can't tell. There really are a lot of scammers out there so I would feel a need to determine that it really happened if it was a one off order to a customer with no history. That seems fair. Not thrilled with people that can't be bothered with a process. It happened to both of us. Sometimes life sucks and we all have to deal with stuff like this. All of that said if it was a mug or two would likely just ship a new one . The few custom orders we have done usually involved extras anyway so I think sometimes you might just be able to send them the backup you made.

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39 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

It is easier for the person receiving the package to file it, but you can at least offer to take care of it.

I've never done it with USPS, but I know that with UPS and Fedex, they want the shipper to file the claim, because the shipper is the one who paid for the insurance on the shipment. With UPS, if they want to inspect the damaged package, they will send a driver to look at it. I guess it makes sense that USPS needs the recipient to come into a post office instead. But still, the shipper should refund the customer regardless, and facilitate the claim. 

I once ordered supplies from a vendor that was lost by Fedex. The shipper said "not our problem." I called Fedex, and they said that the shipper had to file the claim. I could file the claim only if I could prove that the shipper refused to file a claim. Grrrr. I resolved the issue by calling my local Fedex distributor location, rather than their main customer service number. I spoke to a person who said he would look into it. I don't know what he did, but the delivery arrived a few days later, after being lost in the wind for a month. Never ordering from that vendor again. 

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A potter (well some people are just clueless) potters are no exception-I knew one who took visa's at art show sand never sent the pots-I call them crooks-they are in all fields-they are a disservice to all of us. 

I always send the replacement (has happened twice in 40 years)  no charge .

I like happy customers

lately I have been including a extra in item large orders as a gift -like a soap dish or a sponge holder.

I have found if you treat folks well that get really loyal to you and your work.

I have 3 boxes for UPS outgoing today as Tuesday is my usual ship out day.

USPS is a nightmare for service issues-I know that upfront . Try to use them as little as possiable-especally now that UPS has a flat rate shipping  service for small boxes.

Mug to anywhere is $13-they have 4 sizes (based on cubic inches) weight is not important.

 

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UPS will generally only reimburse for damage if the packaging meets their requirements, which are quite extensive, and quite frankly ridiculous and expensive- double boxes, craploads of padding, etc. I know that I don't pack to their standards, but I also have never had anything break in shipping. The only way I would try to pack to their standards is if I  were to ship something very custom and very difficult to repeat. It's possible to pack well without huge boxes and tons of padding. If something ever does break, my policy is to make another one and not even try to deal with the shipper.

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Oh come on Neil-UPS simply states that you must pack while standing on your left foot while making sure the barametric pressure is less than 30 millibars

and thats not on a Friday after the 3rd Wednesday after a full moon. The peanuts need to be in even numbers not odd and not to mix colors.

On a more serious note they rarely ever break  pots the way I pack so its a non issue.

Many folks do not know how to pack-thats a fact.

I spend zero dollars on any packing materials-they are free if just look around.

 

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I've worked too many customer service jobs to feel good about letting a customer handle their own claims. That's just not cool.

Good customer service is all about communication. I usually tell people I'll guarantee it to them within 6 weeks for any special order, and that's to allow for it going wrong. Twice. I typically ship around the 3 week mark. If for any reason I'm delayed, I send them an email so they're not anxious. People like to feel looked after. 

 My husband has worked at all levels of shipping and logistics for the last 20 years. The thing you have to remember about shipping anything is this: There is not a dock worker, package handler or anyone else alive that gets paid enough to give anything even remotely resembling a s*&$ about your package.  And you guys know I don't swear here. The level of not-caring is deep, wide and systemically entrenched. So that means it's up to me to make sure my customer has a chance of getting their deliveries.

I pack so I feel comfortable throwing the package myself. If I feel nervous about doing it, add more packing. 

If something breaks in transit, I ask for a photo so I can make the claim, and I send them a new one on me. Because not packing it properly was my mistake. 

I never send anything without a tracking number. The customer gets sent this tracking number. I set up the shipments so I get email notifications of when they arrive. If a customer contacts me because they havent' got their thing yet, I resend the tracking number with an update that I looked up for them. Because that's a service I have consciously chosen to offer. 

Mostly, I don't have to do anything regarding shipments. It takes me almost 0 extra time. But the last 2 weeks I had 2 shipments to the US held up in customs. I have a system that's pretty quick to go through to look up a shipment because I make a point of sending the customer those tracking numbers. Because I know how they operate (customs can hold packages up to 10 business days if they're overloaded), I was able to reassure my customers about what to expect, and because I was able to say I was keeping an eye on their shipment as well, I'm able to successfully ask them for positive reviews. Everything arrived just fine. 

I've had so much good will come through my inbox in the last few weeks because I took a moment to reassure people who didn't know what was going on. Even if it never adds up to anything beyond that, it feels good to have people contact me and say they were thrilled with that extra bit of service.

Edited to add: 

I also had someone find a mistake on my new website this week while trying to make their purchase, and they wound up not getting the mug they initially wanted. They got sent an extra tea bag dish/spoon plate as a thank you. I want to make people feel good about purchasing from me. Because that does mean they will do it again. 

 

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i once ordered a beautiful pot from a potter in hawaii.   it arrived and i did not even take the box out of the mailman's hand.  he shook it and we both heard the shattered pieces.   i got my money back from the post office and once the box was opened it appeared one page of newspaper was the only packing inside the box.   the potter's name was IDIOT!

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I ship stuff with little loose freebies on purpose.

This way it sounds like something is broken and they go through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster!

Hehehehehe!

Sorce

 

 

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1 hour ago, oldlady said:

i once ordered a beautiful pot from a potter in hawaii.   it arrived and i did not even take the box out of the mailman's hand.  he shook it and we both heard the shattered pieces.   i got my money back from the post office and once the box was opened it appeared one page of newspaper was the only packing inside the box.   the potter's name was IDIOT!

Oldlady I have met that guy before I'm sure

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I ship my communion sets with USPS, always been good service. I don't double box, don't use inflated bags or beads, do wrap in double layers of bubble wrap and then compress pack in good old popcorn. No losses for years, until this year when a chalice stem did not stay attached. . . my fault, not the packing. Replaced it in a week.

 

best,

Pres

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The situation with the other potter definitely surprised me in how she handled it. I would have seriously considered purchasing other items from her had it been handled differently. 

This is a direct quote from the customer in the above story. The potter might think she benefited herself by keeping the money and leaving the customer high and dry, but really she lost a potential repeat customer. 

This is a crucial point that others here have pointed to as well: happy customers equal repeat customers. Imagine trying to keep a pottery business afloat if your customers will only buy your work once. Finding a brand new customer for every single pot? It’s not sustainable. On the other hand, if you make customers happy enough to come back to you for more, your task of selling becomes so much easier. Happy customers also refer their friends to you. The above customer contacted me because another good, steady customer recommended me. 

Gratitude and integrity go a long, long way. 

Edited by GEP

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