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November 1, 2012

How to Lose A Customer

author Giacomo Giammatteo and his dog Slick

Giacomo & Slick

Building Your Team

Being an independent author/publisher means you have to do a hell of a lot more than write. Once you’re done writing, you have to work with a lot of vendors:

          • content editor
          • copy editor
          • proofreader.
          • Graphic designer for your book cover
          • layout and formatting for both ebook and print
          • Website design and hosting
          • Blog tour hosts

You might not use all of these services, but at the very least you will use some of them. I would like to tell you about my experience dealing with one of these vendors.

Advice

The first thing I suggest is conducting in-depth reference checks before “sealing the deal” to work with anyone. I have been in the headhunting business for thirty years, so I understand reference checks—but I didn’t do my job. I was so eager to get my first book published that I did sloppy references on a few of the vendors. Don’t get me wrong, the people I hired were good at what they did—I had checked that—but in the customer service area they fell flat on their asses. And I have to admit, I didn’t check that.

What Happened? 

I had signed on with a company to do work on one aspect of my “soon to be launched” first novel, Murder Takes Time, and I was pleased with how things were going. This company also offered editorial services. I had not used a content editor on my book, opting instead for the wisdom of beta readers and gut instinct. At the last minute I was having second thoughts, so I asked what they would charge to take a quick look and tell me what they thought.

The person I was dealing with told me the price and I agreed, but then she said it would take until the end of the next week to get it started. It was Thursday, and I really wanted this information in order to make a decision about moving forward. I asked if there was any way they could squeeze me in and get it done sooner.

“Let me get back to you,” she said.

Within a half an hour she called back and, in a very cheerful tone, said, “We can get it done sooner, but it will cost extra.”

“How much extra?” I asked.

The price she quoted was 40% more. 40%!

There was a long pause on my end. A very long pause. Finally, the lady who quoted the price asked me if I wanted to have the work done. After taking a few deep breaths and waiting for the hackles on my neck to settle down, I said, “No, I think not.”

The next day I got an email asking if I was still going to be working with them, and inquiring why I decided to pass on that service.

Here is My Response: 

Since you asked, I will explain why I’m passing on this. I wanted to do this with your editor (name withheld) but I don’t believe in “rush fees.” 

I have been in business a long time. When clients ask me to do something special, or in a hurry, either I can or can’t do it. If I can, great. If I can’t, clients understand. I never charge extra. 

Right or wrong, my way of looking at it is this: if your editor could have made the time to do the job I would have been eternally grateful. If she couldn’t I would have completely understood. But to say, “okay, I’ll do it, but I’m going to charge you extra (40% extra) is like saying, “Please place your balls in this vice, Mr. Giammatteo. Now take a deep breath, because we are going to squeeze.” 

Their Response

I truly do appreciate your taking the time to explain your position on rush fees.

I hear what you’re saying and certainly respect your position. It would be easy for me to say “it’s company policy” and leave it at that, but I think you deserve the respect of a more complete answer. The reason for our rush fee policy is that our standard turnaround times for the various services we offer were arrived at through trial and error as 

  • (a) a reasonable amount of time for our understandably anxious clients to wait
  • (b) sufficient time for our editors to juggle multiple projects while still giving each one their undivided attention, and not having to regularly work 12-hour days and weekends. 

We do try to build flexibility into our scheduling, and there are many times that we don’t charge the rush fee — if the editor has a lull in his or her queue and can take it on without rescheduling other clients, for instance. But in this case, the editor would have had to put another project on hold and work through the weekend, so we felt the rush fee was appropriate.

I’m copying our president on this reply, so you know we do take your concerns and opinions seriously. Please know that we appreciate your business and sincerely hope to continue working with you.

My Interpretation

This email convinced me I had made the right choice in not proceeding with their editor. Take a look at the section in red, especially the part that says, “the editor would have had to put another project on hold…”

My understanding of that statement is that some poor sucker who was waiting for their work would have been disappointed because I paid a “rush fee,” and pushed them down the list. If I had engaged this firm, and my projects were delayed, I would always be wondering if it wasn’t because someone paid a rush fee and pushed me down the list.

BTW: I never heard from their president so I guess they didn’t take my concerns seriously.

Bottom Line

This company lost my business. That loss won’t bring them to their knees; it probably won’t even cause a hiccup. But they also lost my recommendations, and I tend to be enthusiastic about that. If I like something, be it a restaurant, a book, or a vendor, I go out of my way to tell others about that product, or that experience. I’m the kind of person who calls a company to specifically tell them an employee gave me good customer service. The opposite of that is also true. I have already told a few dozen people about my experience, and now I’m telling a few more.

When you think about it, what this company did was pretty stupid. They tried to gouge a new customer. Their upside was a few more bucks for one small project. Their downside, losing a customer, and worse—turning a happy customer into a dissatisfied customer, one who might tell others of their bad experience.

The next time you’re looking at doing business with someone, dig deep on those references. Find out not only how good their work is, but how they treat their customers afterwards.

 

Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,

 

Giacomo

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

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8 Responses to “How to Lose A Customer”

  1. WOW!! I am at a loss for words after reading this. The first thing that came to mind is “money talks”, which in my opinion is wrong. Every client, consumer, etc. should get the same level of “attention” no matter what. As a business owner, each client is paying for my services and if I have to put in extra hours, that’s what I do. The customer should not be penalized or pushed to one side because they don’t have “extra cash”. I am also appalled by this statement “It would be easy for me to say “it’s company policy” and leave it at that”. What happened to just being honest?
    Thank you for sharing this post. As a business owner and providing services, it is a lesson for what not to do. My clients will get 100% from me, even if I do have to work weekends and 12 hour days. If not, then it’s time to close shop. I’m grateful that my parents, instilled in me, good work ethics. And I hope that I have passed it along to my sons. If one has a passion for what they do, they wouldn’t need an extra 40%.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. I appreciate it. And you’re right— what happened to being honest? It seems like nowadays too many companies are focused on short-term profits.

  3. Ever been to a crowded restaurant where a twenty or fifty-dollar bill gets you a table without reservations? That’s what the “rush fee” reminds me of. I think of editors as higher level professionals, but in this case obviously not.

  4. Exactly, Mary. I just don’t want to be the one waiting for the table that they get before me. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Good Customer Service is harder and harder to come by in our world of “automated responses” and fewer employees working to serve the demands of more customers.

    This is a sad reflection on America as it seems that more and more people are needing a job but yet more and more employers are “downsizing”!

    Jim glad you followed your “gut reaction” and everything worked out for you as it should in the end.

  6. Thanks Jackie. And yes, you’re right about customer service. It seems to be the exception when you find good customer service. I’m old enough to remember the days when that was standard. I appreciate you dropping by, and have a great Texas weekend!

  7. While 40% sounds obscene, I’d expect them to put some other poor schmo on hold if I paid extra. Though being profoundly cheap–that ain’t ever gonna happen.

    And having been that schmo on other occasions courtesy of my frugal DNA, I’ve had my share of ‘Sorry, your order has been delayed’. I knew exactly what that meant. I was bumped.

    Working both jobs in doesn’t help either. I don’t really want an overtired editor working into the night to get either job done on deadline. That serves no one.

    Short of hiring more staff, I don’t see what else he could do.

  8. Hi, Maria. I know what you mean. IMO, they should have just said, sorry, we can’t get to it that quickly.

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  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist (rootsintheboot.com) and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (intoactionrecovery.com).

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    Ciao,

    Giacomo

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