More than being nice–customer service is key for home-based internet businesses

If you own, or consider starting a home-based internet retail business or are a reseller for a manufacturer of goods, Great customer service is essential. Make sure all the links in your customer service chain are intact.

If it’s your product, outsourcing can be a key move, but each person in the chain must do their job well, and clear communication guidelines need to be established. If you don’t do it right, you’ll never get a return customer or a referral.

I’ll tell my story and you tell me what went wrong. Trust me when I say I am making a long story short.

Before Christmas I ordered three bean bag chairs with covers that look like sports balls. They arrived quickly, vacuum packed into small boxes. The football and soccer ball were fine, but the baseball was stuffed with green and pink foam that showed through the white cover. I e-mailed the guy who sent me the confirmation. And he replied immediately saying he would look into the issue and get back to me. He didn’t.

A month later, I wrote him again. He apologized and said they would send me a new baseball; I should pack up the one I had to be picked up by UPS. That was easier said than done, because I don’t have a vacuum packing machine on hand, and the vacuum cleaner didn’t work. The chair was ten times its original boxed size.

I sat on it, I rolled on it, I jumped up and down on the box. My friends sat on it, my son rolled on it, the UPS man helped (then said he would come back tomorrow when I got a bigger box). I finally packed it –bursting at the seams–in a huge moving box with lots of tape. The UPS man laughed when he picked it up.

Then, they sent me the wrong item. I sent it back. They send me another baseball with the exact same problem. Finally I waved a white flag and they sent me a check. They never picked up the last package. I e-mailed again. Today, the UPS man rang my doorbell and said he had been laughing all the way since he saw my address on his pick up list.

The customer service person I dealt with was nice, but nice was not enough. It became obvious that he did not see the products I was shipped. And, whoever was shipping the products was not reading the correspondence I was sending. Their system isn’t working, and they have the UPS bills to prove it. At least UPS is getting more business and they have at least one amused employee.

Can you share any tips on how my bean bag man might improve his customer service?

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