Dealing With Customer Service On Line
By Karen Wright
I'm a pretty laid back, easy going sort of woman. I seldom get angry except where serious injustice and stupidity are concerned. Thus, when my computer behaves like a furious three year-old child, I just turn it off and come back later. I remember the sage advice of my first computer guru, "It's probably not the fault of the computer, Karen, it's probably the fault of the operator." Chances are it will re-mesh its gears (or whatever the heck it has) and come back on line doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Hardly anyone needs to get a book so fast that they can't wait a few hours for the computer to stop pouting and get back on the straight and narrow.
Sometimes, however, that doesn't work. If a customer needs a book in a big hurry, Murphy's Law says that's when my electronic business partner will decide to have liver failure or something will go wrong with one of the websites I use to purvey my books. That was the story a while back when I got a notice from one of my vendors, ABE Books, that I had a number of outstanding orders that were about to be cancelled because I hadn't acknowledged them, and that my fulfillment rate was way low. I had noticed that ABE hadn't sent me any orders for a while, but my Alibris orders were arriving in a timely manner, so I thought it was just a slow ABE week. I emailed them my assurance that I had not received the offending orders, and would they please check and see why I hadn't. I also went to ABE's website and found, yes, about fifteen back orders. I freaked! I can't afford to lose any orders. I quickly emailed each customer and explained that I didn't know why their orders had not gotten to me, but that I did have (or didn't have) the book. I filled all the orders I could and emailed back to my ABE Rep that I had found the back orders and queries on their web site, but that I had not received the emails from them announcing the orders in the first place, and why was that?
Five emails and four or five days later, one of their right-hand agents finally got back to me and assured me that they were, of course, not at fault and gave me a list of the ten or twelve things I must have done wrong. They even suggested that I find another server as it might be Yahoo's fault. That would be fun. I would have to change my email address everywhere, thousands of wheres! I looked these things over and there were no matches to the problem, nor did it seem as though I had been the culprit. They also suggested that I check their web page every day and not rely on emails from them. I noted that they had been e-mailing me my orders for years, and what was the problem? For cryin' out loud, what am I paying their extravagant fees for? Two days later, they emailed me again and said they had no idea, and it must be something I was doing wrong.