Two customers recently complained about orders that arrived late to their destinations. One was ordered through Etsy during the holidays. It was an order for a single button, which was shipped using stamps and cost $0.60 in postage. The customer left “neutral” feedback as a result. The second was ordered through my own web site using UPS Ground. It was supposed to be a Valentine’s Day gift, but arrived the following Tuesday. That customer wanted a full refund.
Both customers, referring to quoted transit estimates on the USPS and UPS web sites, were annoyed that their shipments took two weeks to arrive. This is perfectly understandable–I have received shipments that took weeks when they were supposed to take days and I was annoyed, too–but they left my company’s hands on time, and shipping estimates are just that–estimates. Winter weather can cause all sorts of cross-country delays. I would never think to ask for my money back or penalize a company for delays due to the Postal Service or UPS, especially if I had chosen a non-guaranteed shipping option like First Class Mail or UPS Ground.
Despite feeling principally certain that my business carried out its responsibilities properly, I wanted my customers to feel listened to and fairly treated. It seemed unreasonable to offer refunds for products that were not defective and were not being returned, but I wanted to keep these customers coming back. To the first customer, therefore, I offered another button or charm free of charge. She declined the offer, but was glad that I made the effort, and she upgraded my feedback. To the second customer I offered a $20 gift certificate, which she accepted as a good compromise.
I might normally think of these as expensive ways to sastisfy customers who are angry at another company’s mistakes, but they both provided a valuable service to me: pointing out flaws in the clarity of my shipping and return policies. That’s the sort of practical education I’m willing to pay for.