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Customer Expectations - RANT!

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  • Customer Expectations - RANT!

    I do the best job I can.

    I have a full-time job that keeps me busy not only at home, but on the road for a week at a time at least once a month. I have a family. I have a home. I have hobbies. Adding up all the hours that go into each of those areas puts me somewhere in the vicinity of 100 hours per day. Somehow I cram it into our allotted span of 24, though a bit more sleep would be cool, if I'm honest.

    That's why interactions like the one I just completed with a "customer" (let's call him Mr. Smith) via email really ****es me off. We corresponded via email about different kit offerings. We went back and forth for a while until he finally decided on one of my Alfa kits. I started getting things assembled for him, discovered that I was short the cylinder for the boat, and let him know I'd be able to ship in about a week. Then he went to a sub event, at which he emailed me and said he wanted to change his mind from the Alfa to the Blueback. Also cool. No problem. I let him know that, unfortunately, the Blueback kits are currently out of stock with a 2 week turnaround.

    Then, out of the blue:

    Mr. Smith:
    Bob,
    So am I going to have this problem with you every time I place an
    order for something? I don't like that and there are European
    sellers as well. SSY still has molds for production so I can
    always go back to Lee if I keep getting a red light for you. Just
    letting you know I have other options.


    Okay. No problem. Deep breath. My reply (which I feel exhibited remarkable restraint):

    Baffled Bob:
    Wow. Really?
    Everyone in this sub hobby are small businesses. Most of us are
    struggling to keep afloat while balancing real jobs. I'll put my customer
    service against anyone in the hobby. I'm sorry that I can't offer
    Amazon-like service. Just a few billion in sales to go...
    I can only do my best. If that's not good enough, obviously you're
    welcome to bring your business elsewhere.


    And Smith's reply:

    Your breaking my heart. I'm tired of giving my money up front and
    getting excuses why an order can't be filled. I've delt with this with
    loyalanna and just tired of it. Just refund my PayPal payment and
    I'll find something else to spend my money on.



    So.. this morning I refunded his money. I let him know that I understood his frustration and that I'd be getting my new stock of Blueback kits by the end of the month. If and when he decided to reconsider, I'd be happy to help him out.

    I felt that was awfully big of me.

    So this leads me to beg the question, is it unreasonable for Mr. Smith to expect a supplier in this hobby of ours to hold inventory of every product offered for purchase? Certainly there are companies out there that do an exceptional job of being able to offer fast turnaround. Unfortunately, at least in my case, being able to hold physical inventory of hundreds of products at all times means not only a massive investment in time for management of inventory levels, but a huge drain on cash flow.

    You all understand that ours is not a big market. I'd be willing to bet that the number of people in the entire world with operational subs likely number between one and two thousand. If I were in this to get rich, I'd have to get my head examined. At this point, I'm basically working for $5 per hour. I do work, however, not because it will allow me to buy a Lamborghini or mansion, but because I love the community and the hobby itself.

    When someone like Mr. Smith above place an order with the expectation of immediate gratification, that expectation has been set by huge corporations like Amazon that are constantly teaching us what to expect. Don;t get me wrong... I love Amazon. I likely order 90% of all the things that I buy from that site. The challenge is that they're the one setting our own perceptions about what customer service is. You ordered the wrong thing? Don't like how it looks? Just plain ol' changed your mind? No problem! Just send it back, free of charge! Heck, we won't even wait for it to show up before we give your money back!

    Yeah... I can't do that.

    Honestly, I'm half a hair's breadth from throwing in the towel and going back to worrying only about my own builds. I don't have the time or energy to educate people about why ours is a special hobby, why it's so expensive, why they need to wait for things to ship, why they're just so complicated.

    Then again... I love doing it. So where does that leave me?



    Bob


  • #2
    Bob. The Chinese have an ancient curse which goes along the lines of: may you live in interesting times; may powerful people take an interest in you; and, may you have all that you wish for. The last one is the worst of all. Getting everything that you want, when you want it leads to wanting nothing at all. No ambitions, nothing to look forward too, no expectation, no nothing. Mr Smith is a fool - let the universe take care of him.

    Where does it leave you? With us of course.

    Comment


    • #3
      Bob,
      Here's my take on customer expectations and you may not totally agree with me - I understand if you don't.
      Yes, Amazon has set the customer satisfaction bar very high but that doesn't me you can't compete. I went to the Nautilus Drydocks web site and looked at your offerings and they're very nice and quite complete but may I be so bold as to offer a totally unsolicited idea to improve customer satisfaction. A lot of your products are made almost to customer order. Given the nature of the R/C submarine niche, that's to be expected. Mr. Smith's expectation was that if he saw it on your order page - and minus any other info to the contrary - you had it in stock - that's not too unreasonable either. What I think you might add to your order page is your current inventory of each item and if it's not in stock, the expected lead time to deliver. If you do that Mr. Smith can't claim he wasn't warned. Is this more work for you and your suppliers - yes, absolutely - but maybe the overall gain in customer satisfaction will make it worthwhile.

      If the inventory data is not practical then you should at least post a generic message at the top of your order page to the effect that:

      MANY OF OUR PRODUCTS ARE NOT PRODUCED UNTIL WE RECEIVE A CUSTOMER ORDER FOR THEM. IN MANY CASES THIS WILL MEAN A LEAD TIME OF SEVERAL WEEKS. PLEASE EMAIL ME FOR MORE INFORMATION.

      Just a suggestion,

      Commander Concerned




      Born in Detroit - where the weak are killed and eaten.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by roedj View Post
        Bob,
        Here's my take on customer expectations and you may not totally agree with me - I understand if you don't.
        Yes, Amazon has set the customer satisfaction bar very high but that doesn't me you can't compete. I went to the Nautilus Drydocks web site and looked at your offerings and they're very nice and quite complete but may I be so bold as to offer a totally unsolicited idea to improve customer satisfaction. A lot of your products are made almost to customer order. Given the nature of the R/C submarine niche, that's to be expected. Mr. Smith's expectation was that if he saw it on your order page - and minus any other info to the contrary - you had it in stock - that's not too unreasonable either. What I think you might add to your order page is your current inventory of each item and if it's not in stock, the expected lead time to deliver. If you do that Mr. Smith can't claim he wasn't warned. Is this more work for you and your suppliers - yes, absolutely - but maybe the overall gain in customer satisfaction will make it worthwhile.

        If the inventory data is not practical then you should at least post a generic message at the top of your order page to the effect that:

        MANY OF OUR PRODUCTS ARE NOT PRODUCED UNTIL WE RECEIVE A CUSTOMER ORDER FOR THEM. IN MANY CASES THIS WILL MEAN A LEAD TIME OF SEVERAL WEEKS. PLEASE EMAIL ME FOR MORE INFORMATION.

        Just a suggestion,

        Commander Concerned



        Good stuff, sir. This might be a big part of the solution.

        David
        "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"

        Comment


        • #5
          On another post, I mentioned contracts and expectations, while I agree with "you do what you want to" (and it has worked for a long time), even today's mom and pop shops set up some rules. Like a restocking fee or wording to set the expectation of the customer and your performance. If you choose to waive the restocking fee or get a product in sooner than expected, you are the hero. You have been doing great for so long, do you really need to change anything? Is this just a wacky few weeks? Only you can decide that.
          If you can cut, drill, saw, hit things and swear a lot, you're well on the way to building a working model sub.

          Comment

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