Businesswise | Why customers don’t support local small businesses
Last week, a friend called me hopping mad to vent about an experience she had with a local small business.
"This is why as much as I try, I hate supporting local businesses. If I had bought this item on Amazon, I would have gotten
it long ago, and if not, they would have refunded me with an
apology," she said.
The item in question was a handmade necklace from a business with a growing reputation for creating bold accessories that can transform the simplest of outfits into beautiful conversation pieces.
She had placed her order via social media as the business did not have a store front or location, which is now commonplace for many upcoming craft, fashion, food businesses and others.
When she paid for the item nearly a month ago via Paypal, the business owner had promised that the necklace would be sent via postage within a week, but the package never came.
My friend then sent the following email: "Good day, Where is my order? It has been almost a month."
Two days later, she received this reply: "I remember your name and I mailed your order a very long time ago. Let me check your information to remind myself of what you ordered to be able to address your concerns specifically."
After sending the information requested by the business owner, she received another email a day later: "I delivered your order to the Liguanea Post Office myself, using the PO box address that was on your order. I have no idea why you have not yet received it. When was the last time you checked your PO box? Let me know. Thanks."
By this time, my friend is understandably frustrated as she had been checking her mailbox every other day, in anticipation of the order, with no success. She replied: "No. No package was received. Checked several times."
The curt response from the entrepreneur turned her frustration into anger: "That's weird. This has never happened before. My number is ... . Please call or Whatsapp me so we can continue conversation. In the meantime, I'll look for the receipt that I got from the post office. If you are sending me an email, please use this address instead."
I cringed at the exchange. Up to the time of writing this article, the issue remained unresolved, my friend is out of pocket US$27.50 with no product to show. She will now be forced to report the issue to Paypal and request a refund from them - which will affect the credibility of the vendor with the payment service - or report the matter to the Consumer Affairs Commission and seek their intervention.
The business owner has a lot to learn about procedures, com-munications and customer service.
The first misstep was not following up with the customer within a week to check whether she had received her purchase and was satisfied. That should be standard procedure, which helps gauge satisfaction, stave off logistical problems, and open the door for repeat business.
The next mistake was that she never offered an apology and a solution.
The third and most offending was insinuating that it was the customer's fault and directing her to make contact to follow up.
I understand that fraud is a serious concern for many businesses, however, it's dangerous to assume that a customer is being dishonest with no due diligence or proof to support it. You risk losing an honest customer whose lifetime value to you could be worth thousands of US dollars in repeat orders and referrals, as well as bad word of mouth and reputational damage.
Had it been my business, I would have done five things:
1. Apologise for the unfortunate experience and explain that this is not the standard we hold our company to; then track the item myself to see what went wrong and try to retrieve it.
2. Immediately offer a replacement to be delivered by a more reliable method and ask if I could telephone her to confirm the new arrangements.
3. Add as a bonus a discount off her next purchase.
4. Ensure that the package is delivered as promised.
5. Follow up with a phone call to confirm that she received the replacement and was satisfied.
As a small business owner and staunch promoter of entrepreneurship as the key to wealth creation and economic growth, my mantra is: 'Buy local, support ambition, help create jobs and build Jamaica'.
However, I don't believe in blind support. Consumers can't be expected to patronise businesses that provide low-quality products or services, don't stand behind their product, deliver late or inconsistently, provide poor customer service, and don't respect consumer rights.
In fact, those are businesses we don't need. While there are many Jamaican companies that have earned our patronage, respect and loyalty by operating at world-class standards, there are far too many that give us a bad name.
n Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: yaneekpage.com