If you own a professional writing or editing company, or if you’re a freelance journalist or book author, or if your company serves writers, or if you’re simply in business at all, there are 10 customer service blunders that can be fatal to your reputation and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Top 10 Customer Service No No’s
10. Ignoring email correspondence.
If you delete incoming emails from disgruntled customers, those customers are just going to keep emailing you. If they don’t get an answer, they may resort to sending you a certified letter. You can bet if they’re determined enough, they’re going to post complaints online about your refusal to acknowledge their correspondence. You will then have not only one disgruntled customer, but also hundreds to thousands of potential lost customers.
9. Ignoring certified letters.
Refusing receipt of certified letters screams, “I’M GUILTY!” Again, you can bet your customer is going to post complaints online about your refusal to acknowledge their correspondence. They’re not going to simply walk away. The consequences will be the same as in #10 above.
8. Refusing to refund a customer’s money.
If your firm has already spent money on this customer’s project, and if the customer’s dissatisfaction is really due to their own actions (some people just can’t accept responsibility for their own errors), no, you shouldn’t refund their money. If they complain online later, you can respond by posting the entire whole story. Your customer probably knows this and, if they truly are at fault, won’t want their own errors posted online. If a customer knows they are at fault, they’re less likely to post complaints online.
However, if you’ve spent very little or no money on your customer’s project (or product), it’s worth it in the long run to refund the customer’s money. Time is money and responding to a possible future complaint from this customer won’t be worth your time later.
If you are at fault, you absolutely MUST refund the customer’s money or replace the product/service – no questions asked. It’s the right thing to do.
7. If the product is inferior, replace it or refund the customer’s money.
I’ve heard from lots of Print on Demand (POD) authors who have received books from their publishers that are less than perfect. Unfortunately, many of these publishers seem to have a “that’ll just have to be good enough” attitude, and have refused to replace the inferior books.
If you accept prepayment on a writing project and deliver an inferior product, the customer absolutely deserves a re-write or a refund.
Remember, if you deliver garbage, your reputation is going to stink.
6. Upselling customers on unnecessary products/services.
If you promise to ghostwrite a book for a customer, be sure to include everything in your proposal and price. Don’t quote a price, while planning to line your pockets more later by “upselling” the customer on the addition of an index…when you know the customer assumed an index would be included all along.
If you’re publishing an author’s book, don’t lead them to believe your $750 press release service is going to result in $750 worth of book sales (because you know it likely won’t – not even close).
5. Making promises you can’t keep.
If you have no experience editing, don’t start a book editing service. Your errors will harm your author’s reputation and the author will definitely let people know about it online. Then, your business will fail.
If you have no cover design experience, don’t start a cover design service.
If you know you’re going on vacation in two weeks, don’t promise to submit that how-to article to the editor during that time (all the while planning to submit it a week late just to get the assignment).
If you can’t publish a book in two months, don’t promise you can, just to get the up-front fees from the hopeful author.
4. Blaming others for your own mistake.
This is a scenario I’ve seen more times than I can count. A magazine doesn’t have the money to pay a writer. Instead of admitting that and offering a payment plan, they say they’re not going to pay the writer because the writer turned in a poor article, or the writer submitted it late, or the writer forgot to send in a W-9, or the writer didn’t submit their invoice correctly, etc., etc.
Another common complaint about POD publishers is their sub-par editing services. Some of them charge an author exorbitant fees for a professional editor…yet the editor actually introduces errors into the book. If the author wants to fix those errors later, many POD publishers charge those authors…to fix the errors that were created by the publisher’s own editor in the first place.
There are literally a thousand ways to blame a customer for your own error but the customer isn’t stupid. Doing this will only enrage the customer and everyone is going to see that rage when they post about your actions online.
3. Take a lesson from celebrities. Say You’re Sorry!
You can be forgiven for just about anything if you just admit you’re wrong and apologize. Sometimes, people get so caught up in believing they’re perfect that they forget they can make mistakes. Others are so narcissistic that they’ll deny their mistake until their last breath, even when they know everybody else knows they screwed up!
The absolute best (and fastest) fix for a mistake is an immediate and heartfelt apology, and instant action to remedy the error. It’s so simple. It truly is. Try it!
2. Ignoring public criticism of your products/services.
I see this ALL the time. Many large print on demand companies have soooo many complaints listed about them online that they don’t even bother to respond to them anymore. You know that they know they exist just by the sheer volume of complaints. But, you rarely, if ever, see the publishers respond. Perhaps they don’t want to devote the resources necessary to try to salvage their reputation. Perhaps they just don’t care because they’re already making so much money as it is. Perhaps they know arguing their case is a losing battle because they keep screwing up. Whatever the reason, ignoring legitimate complaints from real customers is the worst thing you can do for your business. If you refuse to even utter one word in your own defense, everybody assumes you’re guilty and, while you may be raking in the dough, you could be earning far more if you’d go the extra mile to make your customers happy – which would prevent them from needing to post complaints about you online in the first place.
1. And the Simplest Rule of All! DON’T LIE!
You know what they say. One little lie can lead to another, and another, and another. Before you know it, you have a history of whoppers on your hands and you’re spending most of your time just trying to remember what you said, and to whom.
This is the one rule that is related to most of the other rules on this list. If you really want to maintain a stellar reputation, be completely honest in everything, EVERYTHING that you do. Never bend the truth, ever.
Call it Karma, or whatever you want, but if you do dirty business, no matter how “harmless” you think it is, it will absolutely come back to bite you, again, and again, and again.
It’s so easy to run an ethical business. Treat people with respect, like you would want to be treated. Do the right thing, in everything you do, every single day. The reward will be your exemplary reputation which, quite naturally, results in more customers, and, of course, higher revenues.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers in the industry.