Practical Ecommerce

Trust in your customers

There’s a lot of talk about trust in business. I read a lot about the importance of good customer service, quality products, toll free numbers, and contact information on your site, etc. But something I haven’t seen discussed much is trust in your customers. This year I have seen more dishonesty in some of my customers than in years past. But how do you prove that they are not being 100% honest with you.

We drop ship most of our inventory but there are items that I ship personally for customers. I am the person that packs and ships their order so I know how it was packed and what was inside. My customer recently stated that half of her order was missing. I couldn’t believe it because I personally packed that box and I know I packed 24 little candy tubes in the box. If I had packed only 12 I would have used a smaller box. I remember counting not once, not twice but three times before I sealed up the box. But she claims only 12 arrived and as the saying goes, “the customer is always right”. As I packed up another 12 items and paid to ship them to my customer I couldn’t help but be a little angry. Maybe she realized she needed more favors, maybe she just wanted extras. Either way she got what she wanted and I lost a lot of money.

With my drop shipped orders it’s hard for me to know if the error was ours or if the customer might be telling a white lie. But recently I caught a customer in her lie. The drop shipper made an error and instead of shipping 25 of product A and 25 of product B they shipped 50 of product A. I had a copy of the invoice from the supplier that showed what was shipped. I was more than happy to fix this and get Item B shipped out right away but when I asked about having them return the extras of product A to us, they claimed they never received those extra 25 items. I don’t feel right about accusing them of lying but really, is it that hard to be honest. They weren’t going to have to pay to return them. Is it because people really do enjoy getting things for free? I do too, who doesn’t, but not like this. To me this is stealing.

These are a couple of examples of what I have been seeing this year. I think it’s sad; these little lies add up and cost my business a lot of money, which in turn causes me to raise my prices in order to keep up.

When items are damaged I do ask for photos and they are very helpful. But how to you get proof that items are missing? I can go by the weight of the box, that sometimes helps but how to you confront your customer about this? The customer is always right but it doesn’t mean what they are doing is always right. I know some of you will tell me to confront the customer, besides if I lose them as a customer maybe I am better off, I shouldn’t want to keep a customer that is stealing from me right? But I just can’t seem to do it.


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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Kevin Stecko April 1, 2013 Reply

    We’ve had this happen. Is it possible the shipping company damaged the package? Do you have a weight on the package? Was the shipment insured?

  2. Kara English April 8, 2013 Reply

    Hi Kevin. It is possible that the shipping company damaged the package, that does happen from time to time. We do have original weights but no insurance. Maybe that’s they way we should go from now on. Thanks for our comment!

  3. Mary Mcleod April 9, 2013 Reply

    I don’t normally post comments but just really had to respond to this one. This definitely resonates with us. We’re a small e-retailer too. We’ve had all sorts of things happen between our parcels despatching and arriving on a registered service plus even returns afterwards that stretch the boundaries of great customer service. What we’ve decided to do is a combination of the following: (a) insure high value items – can’t do it on everything (b) assess honesty by how forthcoming they are without prompting (the marjority) (c) assume customer is right unless we have bullet proof evidence (rare) (d) operate a blacklist (very rare).

    We’ve even had situations in between where we have the 100% evidence but customer has had an unfortunate luck.

    I just figure even though you’ve got costs to recover somewhere, you have to leave the last customer contact at either passive or promotor status, not detractor (sorry Net Promoter Score lingo). We the bare mimimum to get them off detractor (ie if obvious if unhappy) status but not go all the way (its easy to overcompensate to the cost of your business). eg We offer 10% discount off vouchers valid for unlimited use for 12 months. Amazing how much customers do actually appreciate it and then never use it. So it’s a no-cost way of addressing cust satisfaction.

    BTW It’s only a handful on the blacklist and I know the names by heart so I can check against orders.There are some criteria but basically I never want that customer again. No one has been cheeky enough to order again but if they did, I would just automatically refund. If they asked why (now that would be interesting as I suspect most people who know they’ve done something wrong previously wouldn’t ask), I would say potential fraud was identified and our finance department advised to cancel this particular transaction. That should scare them and if they want to make a big deal out of that, I would have all the facts.
    Welcome any other approaches!

  4. lanservices April 24, 2013 Reply

    When it comes to running a successful e-commerce service, businesses must understand that one of the biggest factors in any kind of major success is trust. Unless a business has the trust of the customers it is selling to, they will quickly find out that the customers will start to melt away. A good level of trust allows a business to sell more products to more customers. It also allows for a healthy reputation, so that new customers flock to the business as they discover that they are worthy of trust and always provide a high quality customer experience.

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