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January, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 01

WIBB Exclusive: Customer Service Gone Bad

By Cherie Sohnen-Moe

I recently had one of the worst customer service experiences in my life! I placed an order with a company on October 15th. They state that all orders will be shipped in 7 to 14 working days.

This company is only one state away and is open seven days a week, so I figured I would have my order in less than three weeks – even if we only count five working days per week. Three weeks pass and no order and no e-mail notice of the shipment.

So, on Monday, November 5th, I called and talked with someone at the company. He was very apologetic, said he would look into it and call me back. So far, so good. I figure that sometimes glitches happen, but what's critical is how they are handled. He calls me back and says the reason that my order had been held up was that a few of the 21 items had been on back order. I asked him why I wasn't contacted and given the option to have a partial (in actuality a majority) order shipped. He said that should have happened but didn't. Then, he assured me that everything was there and my order would ship out that day and that I would receive it by the following Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.

Wednesday comes and no order. I call and get voice mail. I leave a message and send an e-mail.

Thursday morning, still no response. So I call again and talk with the same person. He claims it's out of his hands, but he will follow up. More than five hours elapse and no word. So, I call him back. Again, all I get is apologies. I ask him if there's anyone else I can talk with (sometimes going up the chain of command works). I was essentially told that there was nobody else. He promised to get this handled.

Friday comes and goes. No response. I talked with a friend who had gone in on the order with me. She went to Facebook and posted a quick note about her disappointment. Within minutes she received a response with a name and e-mail address to contact (different than the person I had contacted). So, I sent an email. I realize that not everyone reads their e-mail daily, but I expected to hear from someone by Monday. Nope.

This company held my money hostage for a month! They had multiple opportunities to make amends. They should have sent some of my order (even if it was just one item) next day delivery, when I first talked with them. Most importantly, they should have contacted me and explained what the delay was (even though supposedly everything was ready when I called on November 5th) and given me options. Instead, I had to initiate all of the communications and all I got was empty apologies.

On November 12th, I sent an email stating that I needed a response in an hour or I would contact my credit card company to get the charges reversed, contact the Better Business Bureau and post my story on my blogs and every social media outlet that I am on. In just under an hour, I received a lovely e-mail with a tracking number that my order is on its way. While this is good, the only apologies were for the delay, not the poor communication once they knew about the problem. And that was the most frustrating part of the whole experience.

I wholeheartedly endorse companies that incorporate a proactive customer service program. Unfortunately, many companies don't anticipate potential problems and how to handle them if they arise.

What circumstances do you think might occur to cause a client to be unhappy? What steps will you take to repair the relationship?

To read other posts from our expert panel, visit the WIBB blog at

Click here for previous articles by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.


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