29 July 2019 | 27 Comments
What would you do if you received the following email?
“Hey, I recently ordered a game from your website, and it shipped a few days ago. Unfortunately, I entered the wrong address, and it will either be delivered to a place I can’t get it or returned to you. What should I do?”
This is truly a hypothetical example, not an exact copy of an email. I’ve received a number of similar messages, though, each with a slight tweak on the situation, culpability, and tone. A number of them also involve situations where a package is marked as delivered to the correct address, but the customer didn’t receive it.
Keep in mind that we only accept orders when a product is in stock (or days away from arriving at our fulfillment centers). If you’re a Kickstarter creator, this issue of incorrect addresses can be much more extreme, as there’s often a big gap in time between the pledge manager and delivery.
I’ve replied to emails like this in different ways over the years. Early on, my philosophy for fixing errors was focused on respectful fairness. If I messed up, I fix it on my dime. If you messed up, I’ll fix it on your dime. That kind of thing.
My philosophy has slowly shifted to the cost of doing business. Specifically, for every 100 orders, I need to be okay with the cost of those orders amounting to that of 101 orders. There’s a built-in buffer, both logistical and psychological.
Adopting this philosophy has, in my opinion, improved the customer service experience. Here’s roughly what my response might look like now.
“Thanks for your note, and I’m sorry your order was delivered to the wrong address. Can you confirm the correct address, and we’ll send you another copy of the game? If you’d like to pay for shipping, you can PayPal $10 to firstname.lastname@example.org”
In cases where the game was marked as delivered to the correct address (but the customer didn’t receive it), I’ll recommend that they first check with their neighbors, as in most cases the game was misdelivered nearby. If they can’t find it, I’ll ask for a different mailing address and proceed with the shipment.
There are also cases where the game box arrives damaged, which isn’t the customer’s fault. In those cases, I offer a choice of a partial refund or for us to give the customer a mailing label to send the game to a reviewer, and we’ll send the customer a replacement game.
So in the end, it’s actually kind of a mix between respectful fairness and the cost of doing business. But I think the latter is particularly important, as the built-in psychological buffer has freed me to default to an immediately helpful response instead of some sort of negotiation. It also helps me, because I stress less about the little things.
What’s your perspective on the cost of doing business?
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