Threatening a customer: BAD IDEA!


Once more I take to the internet to express my views on our interconnected marketplace and the proper management of disgruntled customers. A few months ago I wrote some brief guidelines to vindictive customers with some pointers to make their negative reviews effective (please read: Piece of advise to all vindictive customers). Yesterday I made use of my own advise and wrote an unhappy but fair and objective review about a company called Thompson Moving Inc based out of Sunrise, Florida. 

Here is a timeline of the events that have taken place over the past 3 days: 

  • I set out to hire a moving company on Saturday 11/17/12 for services to be rendered on Sunday 11/18/12
  • The move involved 4 pieces of furniture for a total distance of 4.5 miles
  • After receiving a couple of calls with all-inclusive quotes from various companies I received a call from Thompson Moving Inc.
  • The sales guy at Thompson was extremely personable, friendly and determined to gaining my business and a positive online review 
  • After a 10 minute conversation I was offered 3 hours of service at a $60 per hour rate which according to the sales guy would be more than enough to cover my move
  • I asked if there would be any additional fees, cancellation fees, what their insurance policy was and if there would be any other charges I needed to be aware of…the answer to my last question was no
  • I paid a $100 deposit and went on with my happy life bragging about the great bargain this wonderful company had offered me
  • Sunday at 9:55 AM a driver and a very friendly mover showed up at the pick up location and started the move
  • The move took 3 hours. My boyfriend had to jump in and help because the guys requested his assistance at times, we did not mind this though it was not part of the agreement
  • The furniture was delivered, reassembled and though it suffered some scratches we decided to overlook them since the guys were so nice
  • The driver called the dispatcher to verify the amount due and that’s when all hell broke loose! 

I was informed that my outstanding balance was $183 because we had gone over one hour of service and they were now adding an 18% fuel surcharge. WHAT? This fuel surcharge was never mentioned until that moment and this was the first I heard about an additional charge for traveling time before the guys showed up at my property. 

I was very upset because these charges were never mentioned despite my directly asking the sales guy if there were any additional fees I should know about. I spoke to about 2 or 3 people on the phone to finally come to an agreement: they would waive the fuel surcharge and I had to pay the extra $60 of labor otherwise the movers would not leave my property. I did not want to prolong the argument so I agreed to the $60 with indignation as I did not want to be held hostage in my own house.

I reminded the person on the phone that I had promised the sales guy a review and reiterated my intention to go online and share my experience. The movers left my property very embarrassed by the misunderstanding. As promised, I went online to yellow pages, yellow bolt and ripoff report and wrote a short review asking people to beware of the hidden fees tagged at the end of the service. 

Monday 11/19/12 at 6:43 PM. I received a call from the CEO of the company threatening to sue me for libel and defamation if I did not agree to remove the reviews I posted that day. He claimed that I was messing with a multi-million dollar business and that he would go after every penny I had to my name if I refused to comply with his demands (and yes, I am quoting his words). Half way through the call he advised me that the conversation was being recorded and he would use it in court against me. I listened for a few minutes, offered him to take down the review if he reimbursed me the extra money I was charged ($60). After hearing his endless threats I hung up the phone. A few minutes later a new review was posted online, all in caps highlighting how wonderful this company was and discrediting my opinion about the business. 

http://www.yellowpages.com/sunrise-fl/mip/thompsons-moving-inc-473551917

A few words of advise to vindictive vendors:

  1. Honor your word. If you promise a service and a price stick to it. Nothing infuriates a customer more than being blindsided and surprised with last minute fees hidden in cautiously written fine prints
  2. If there are variables affecting the total cost of your service be upfront about them
  3. Do not avoid answering questions about additional fees, especially when you are being directly asked about them
  4. Take the time to walk customers through your estimate/quote/contract/schedule of fees…those 3 extra minutes will pay off dividends
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver
  6. If things go sour, because they do sometimes, offer an apology and try to find an amicable resolution. Keep in mind that difficult situations offer yet another opportunity to wow a customer if handled correctly
  7. If you have tried it all and your customer is not willing to reason then cut your loses and part ways…you know you did your best. Unsatisfied customers are part of the cost of doing business

Ugh, this silly customer wrote a negative review. Now what do you do?

DO NOT call to threaten the customer. Have you heard that you get more flies with honey? The last thing you want is a negative mark with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) therefore threatening a customer is a terrible idea. 

If the customer has taken to the internet to bash your company there are a few options available:

  1. Contact the website where the review was posted and explain your side of the story. Depending on the level of objectivity and the type of language used in the review chances are you can have it removed by providing evidence to support your claim. Most angry customers are very emotional about bad interactions with vendors and tend to use derogatory words that make their reviews questionable to begin with 
  2. If the review was written in a professional manner and its clear intent is to warn other potential customers instead of ‘ruining’ your business then step one will take a little more work. It’s likely that the site will do a short investigation and come up with a resolution 
  3. You can post a response addressing the concerns expressed by the customer. This is not advisable in most cases since it’s likely that the angry customer will come back with a nasty response and you will have just gotten a yucky pen-pal
  4. If you think that contacting the customer again might yield good results then go for it with the following tips in mind: 

Be nice and courteous

Come up with a new resolution. A future discount, a special rate, a letter from the owner, etc. This is not to say that customers can bully you for goodies. Not at all!

Explain how hard you have worked to establish your business reputation and how you would appreciate finding a resolution so the review can be removed

If all of this fails, move on and procure legitimate reviews from satisfied customers (and notice the emphasis on the word LEGITIMATE)

As stressful and discouraging as a bad review can be it’s not the end of the world. If you really manage a reputable and fair business the bad reviews will be buried by the outstanding ones other customers will leave for you. 

Why is suing a customer for a bad review a bad idea?
You want to put this incident behind you, right? Imagine the heavy artillery you put in the hands of a vindictive customer when you sue him/her for expressing an opinion. Yes, I can see Help Me Howard in the background and an emotionally distressed customer demanding his/her right to freedom of speech. 

When you add to the fire with threats and nasty-grams you are putting a big spotlight on that customer thus multiplying the effects of the bad review…even if you win in court. Furthermore, don’t ever record conversations without advising the customer he/she is being recorded…why do you think banks tell you in advance? 

To sum up this extensive post: If you are running a profitable business, you really should not have time to harass customers. Use that energy to find new ones!

This is free advise from someone who has been a vindictive customer and dealt with a few of her own.

PK

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About karolhernandez
A humble genius who knows when to lead and when to follow. Please visit me at www.karolita.com

2 Responses to Threatening a customer: BAD IDEA!

  1. hollylang01 says:

    Hi Karol,

    A bad experience indeed. However, I really appreciate the way you outlined how to write a negative review. It should be kept professional and not derogatory. Being on the side of service, it helps to listen to the customer and understand their perspective. I hope you are able to work through this situation. I look forward to reading more of your post.

    Best regards,
    Holly

  2. Thanks Holly. It’s funny because no matter what line of work we are in, we are always going to be on the consumer end as well. However, some people seem to forget that. Really appreciate your asking vendors to listen to customers: http://hollylang01.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/the-importance-of-managing-feedback/

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