Running a Small business:

Keys to Rocking your Customer Service

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A few weeks ago, we placed an order for 3,000 microfiber cloths for a large corporate order. Needless to say, it was a fairly expensive order, and of course it was important that everything arrive to us in time.

We set up multiple phone calls with the vendor ahead of placing the order to ensure they could meet our quantity and timeline, and we were assured that everything was good to go.

Can’t you already tell this story doesn’t have a happy ending???

Two days before we needed the cloths in-hand, we asked the vendor for tracking information and were told that the cloths had been delayed and weren’t shipping until the next day (the day before we needed them).

Here’s the unbelievable conversation that followed:

Us: “Ok…. can you overnight them to us? We need them on Wednesday.”

Vendor: “No, sorry, we can’t overnight them. I can 2-day them, but you’d have to pay for expedited shipping.” 

Us: “Uhhh what?? Can we pay to have them overnighted?”

Vendor: “Ok, sure. It’ll be $162.”


Not only were we spending thousands of dollars on that order, but we’d spent thousands with them on past orders and were sure to spend tens of thousands on future orders.

Now? We’ll probably steer clear of that vendor in the future.

They lost our business over $162. They lost tens of thousands of dollars over $162. That $162 shipping label actually cost them $20,000.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Just last week we had a vendor drop the ball, forget our order, and then charge us for expedited shipping when she realized her mistake– and by the way, expedited shipping was only $8 more expensive than ground shipping

A few months ago we had a vendor send us some moldy items, and they sent us a replacement batch with no mention of a refund or “I’m sorry that happened.” I didn’t NEED the apology, but it’s hard to imagine skipping it, if the roles were reversed. 

Of course, for every issue we’ve had, we have a hundred examples of amazing service, or even good old fashioned pretty-darn-good-service, where we, ya know, get the thing we ordered when we ordered it. 

But these examples of poor customer service occur often enough that they’re worth mentioning. I think there are two reasons why they happen:

Business owners aren’t empowering their employees to deliver awesome customer service. Undoubtedly, microfiber-lady had a rule book in front of her that stated that they don’t expedite shipping unless the customer pays, and she was just following the rules. 

On the flip side, at Teak & Twine we have a rule here that if it costs less than $500, every person who works at Teak & Twine has my complete blessing, dare I say insistence, to make it right, over-deliver and just do the right thing. (When it costs more than $500 they run it by me, and we’ll probably still do it!)

Business owners and employees are still thinking about relationships with their customers as short term, when I would argue there is no such thing as a short-term relationship with a client. Between online reviews, social media shares, referrals, word of mouth and, of course, repeat business, making things right for customers is ALWAYS the right money move.

We’ve done some straight-up BONKERS things for our customers to make things right.

We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on expedited shipping when an event date moved (no fault of our own!). I have a 100%-refund-policy if anything goes wrong with an order. When an order is lost in the mail, I overnight a new gift, free of charge.

And first place in the crazy hall of fame: when some gifts arrived dented to a client after the shipping box was dropped from what I can only imagine based on the photos was a 100-story building, we insisted on having an account manager FLY TO CALIFORNIA with a suitcase full of boxes to fix them. Sadly, the client didn’t take us up on it, but that’s how we roll. 

Of course going above and beyond for clients is better for business, but it’s also SO much more fun!!! Amazing service is getting pretty rare– people remember and talk about it when they see it. 

Next time you have a customer ask for something, even if it’s a little crazy, ask yourself if this might be a case of “the $20,000 shipping label.” And maybe, if it makes sense, just say “yes.” 🙂 


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