What is Customer Service?

This is post is part rant and part exploration into customer experience policies for companies; especially companies that operate through the internet and drop ship. At the end we would love to hear from you. Pi Photography and Fine Art is an internet based art gallery that delivers high quality wall art and collectible fine art photography prints. Our landscape and nature photo prints come in a variety of sizes and on a variety of print material such as metal, paper, and canvas textures. Our prints are packaged tightly and shipped directly to the customer with care. The reason I state this is not to sell but to fill you in on the variety of choices our customers have and the problems that sometime occur for the customers.

In our experience with selling online a lot of clients struggle with judging exactly what they need by viewing small examples on a computer screen. Once these customers have their photo prints is in their hands the print can sometimes be too small or even too big for the area they’re working with. There are also the occasional problems with color discrepancies that can occur. A lot of customers have out dated computer monitors that cannot display the correct coloring of the landscape and nature photos. A customer may have a paint swatch or fabric swatches that they are comparing the colors to the photo prints while it’s on the computer screen. These color discrepancies can sometimes cause trouble for the customer too. Because of these two major factors we offer a 30 day, 100% money back guarantee on all of our prints; that’s right 100% including shipping. We have exchange options available if the client chooses but if a client doesn’t want an exchange we will gladly give a refund for the purchase. Keep it simple is our motto. We even pay for the print(s) to come back to us to relieve stress on our clients. To us this guarantee is part of delivering a high quality customer experience. As much as we would love to sell our wall art and fine art prints we want happy clients more. We want people to know and remember that their decorating needs are just as important to us as it is for them. We want trust with our clients.

We’ve been testing out photo print companies for our landscape and nature photos over the past few weeks. We judged the quality of the prints, the structure of the frames, the speed of delivery, the shipping and packaging policies and more. Two out of three companies that we tried so far had errors with the orders. One printer sent beautiful high quality prints but they were shipped incorrectly. We asked and paid for rushed shipping; however, they shipped the order ground. When we contacted them about the error they didn’t just refund the difference in shipping cost; they refunded the entire shipping cost to us. They acknowledged the problem and not only corrected it but gave a little more for the inconvenience… and they did it quickly. That to me is great customer service!

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The second print company however disappointed me. We sent an order for two 24” x 36” canvas wraps to fulfill for us. The first print looked good but the second had several small holes in the canvas and a 1-2″ white scuff mark across the front. The damage wasn’t on the bag that the canvas was packaged in nor was it on the box from shipping. To me that means someone isn’t checking the quality of the print before packaging. So I sent a message to them with photos of the damage. Because it was a weekend and I wasn’t completely happy with the quality we placed the order with another company. In the email I sent to them about the damage I simply asked for a refund for the damaged print and I let them know I didn’t need a replacement. The print company refused the refund unless I paid for the damage print to be shipped back to them….What? …I have to pay for the company’s error? That’s unacceptable! They sent a replacement print anyway.

Now I know errors happen, we are human so it does occur. We have several employees here that receive and ship our print orders and yes accidents have occurred. If accidents end up in our client’s hand and a replacement is requested because of an error on our part; as a business owner that correction is my obligation. I would personally be the one examining the replacement and packaging it up for deliver just like I do with the fine art collectible prints. I would want to make sure that we as a company didn’t fall short the second time around with our client.

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However, the replacement print they sent us was worse than the original print. While the first print had several small holes in the canvas, the second print had creases that ran across the canvas. The creases superseded the damage of the original print…. Are you kidding me?!? So, once again I took time to take photos of the damage of the print and sent another message to thank them for their efforts, make them aware of the damage, and of course ask for a refund…again. I took the time because I believe that growth in a business comes from learning from successes as well as from errors. Today, I received their reply. The reply states that a refund will not be processed and they’re sending out yet another replacement print. A third print…What? Why? You’ve got to be joking me! Now I’m angry!

img_2070 Our client’s order has been fulfilled by the third company; she was unaware of the issues that occurred with the printer and has her prints hung on the walls already. Now, we have two damaged prints sitting here that are unsalable and we’re arguing back and forth with the print company about a third print and a refusal of a refund. What do I need a third for? How is refusing a client’s request and frustrating the client productive to a business? With so many options online this “third times a charm” method of trying to retain business makes no sense to me at all; especially after denying the client from what they requested as a remedy to the problem.

When I went back to the printer’s website to look for other contact info to a complaint department I noticed they didn’t have a guarantee for their work. They guaranteed speedy delivery but nothing about quality or customer satisfaction. So, my lesson is learned. If there isn’t a guarantee listed on the website, proudly, that company will never have my business.

We would really like to know your opinions and expectations when it comes to placing orders through online retailers. If you’re willing to share, would like to know your previous experiences too, good and bad.

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2 thoughts on “What is Customer Service?

  1. Dan Antion

    I like communicatio from online vendors. I love companies that send even simple emails to keep me informed of the progress. When something goes wrong, I can be understanding, until I am expected to pay for something I didn’t do or accept less than I paid for.

    In your type of business, I think you have the right idea. You keep your customer happy and you don’t involve them in your problem. Unfortunately, this means loss of yonder and probably money for you. I get angry when companies bring me into their problem with statements like: “our supplier” “our shipper” and worst of all: “our system” – those are your business decisions, not mine.

    It sounds like you handle things well.

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