There was a girl I knew in high school that had a boy friend that had asked her to marry him. She came to me and asked me what I thought. I said, “it’s easy… if you want to marry him, then marry him. If you don’t want to marry him, then break up— right now. And if you are not sure, then just keep dating him until you *are* sure”.
She looked at me, laughed, and walked off.
About two years later I was sitting on my motorcycle outside of a major store when I saw that girl and her boyfriend coming out of the store. They walked right past me, but never noticed me. He was carrying a baby, and she was yelling at him, cussing him up one side and down the other. I remembered her and knew that it was her nature to be verbally abusive, and I remembered him and knew it was his nature to silently take it. They walked past and got in their car, and all the while he was silently taking the verbal shakedown abuse from her. As I sat on my motorcycle watching them, I thought to myself “there’s some things worse than being single”.
At another time, I remember at my high school job (44 years ago) when a particular troublesome customer came in. This customer wanted a particular product customized exactly to his particular specifications. We had the product, and I knew we could meet the request, but I also knew that customer was trouble. I will never forget how I saw my manager handle it.
My manager treated that customer with dignity, respect, and politeness. He looked the customer straight in the eye and with a very sad but serious voice said, “oh, I am sorry, but I don’t think we can do that for you. I am so very sorry. You might try [a competitor’s name], I think they can do that for you”. He then proceeded to politely give directions to where that competitor was located.
The customer acted happy with that, and left. My manager then turned to me and said, “there are some customers that you are better off without”, and returned to his work.
I will never forget those words.
We are blessed with some of the most wonderful customers on earth, and I appreciate them immensely. But, of course, there’s always a few bad apples in every basket. We all know that. We have been very fortunate that there have been *very* few of those bad apples that we’ve had to deal with. But we’ve had to endure a few in our history. This post represents stories and policies on how we handle those few bad apples.
Many years ago (before we had a formal customer service department), I observed one of my employees— someone I shall call “Sally” (not her real name, and who no longer works for me). Sally was talking to a customer on the phone. I could actually hear the customer’s voice through the phone, it was that loud. Very loud. Sally was being yelled at, but was patiently trying to help, and be polite. It went on for a minute or two, when Sally suddenly broke down and just hung up the phone on the customer. Then she looked up and saw that I had been observing the whole time. She was embarrassed, and didn’t know how I was going to react.
I wasn’t upset. That customer had been completely unreasonable in my own estimation. I laughed, shook my head, and said, “oh, Sally, Sally, we need to get you off of customer service”. And then I chuckled some more. I then gave her the same advice that I have given countless of my employees. Even when the customer is totally unreasonable, they need to do everything they can to please the customer. Then after it is over, and the customer is satisfied, block the customer so that they don’t have to deal with that situation again.
After we set up a formal Customer Service department (but this was still many years ago), I got a call from our Customer Service manager. She was in tears, and had just been torn apart by a caller. Many of our Customer Service calls are recorded, and that one was recorded. She sent me the recording, and I was appalled by what I heard. My reaction? That customer was blocked (the block was later lifted by the Customer Service manager herself).
My employees are my most valuable business resource, and I want to protect them. I don’t want them to have to endure unreasonable abuse. Realize also, that in the beginning, Bountiful Baby employees were ALL my family, and even now a significant percentage is. I don’t want my family (or *any* my employees) to have to endure work stress from abuse. And I also need to protect the company from fraud.
Fraud Filter is a free Shopify app, and is the app we use to help accomplish the above goals. There are other Shopify apps for this, but most of the others amount to nothing more than an insurance policy, where (for a fee) they guarantee the transaction even if the transaction is otherwise fraudulent. In contrast, the Fraud Filter app actually stops the transaction from happening in the first place, and it is our preferred app for that.
With Fraud Filter, you first specify “trigger” conditions. Then when a customer tries to check out, if they match any of the trigger conditions, the app will automatically cancel the order and refund their money. It is done automatically, with no human intervention.
When we create “trigger” conditions, we also document *why* each trigger was set up. We keep the *why* private— it is only known to our customer service. Here are our “trigger” conditions that we use, and have used for about 15 years (before we used Shopify, we had our own software that had even more sophisticated blocking capabilities than we have with Shopify):
If a package is returned to us as “undeliverable”, that particular SHIP TO address is automatically blocked. Why ship again to an address that is “undeliverable”?
If a customer bounces a payment, that customer is automatically blocked. It is not reasonable to expect any company to ship out free stuff and not get paid. Furthermore, Shopify charges us a $15 “bounced payment” fee when that happens. A bounced payment will *always* result in some kind of action on our side. Policy allows for either the Customer Service Manager, or our Executive Management, to lift the block.
If someone even casually threatens legal action against us for any reason, an automatic block goes in place. This block will require Executive Management review (and when necessary, legal review by our attorney) before it is lifted.
More than 15 years ago I made the decision that if anyone disparages one of my employees, an automatic block would go in place, pending an Executive Management review. Our current policy is that after the review, if Executive Management deems that the disparagement was justified, the employee will get terminated and the block removed (and this has not happened yet, and I hope never does). Otherwise the policy is that the block will stay in place, unless there are strategic legal reasons to do differently, or the employee that was disparaged allows it to be lifted. This is a case when I almost always will put the power in that employee’s hands to decide, regardless of who that employee is.
Aside from the Fraud Filter blocks discussed above, you need to think about Social Media blocks. I generally discourage anyone from blocking people on their social media. If people are going to talk dirt about you, you want them to do it where you can see it, if at all possible. If you block them, they will just do it somewhere else, so there’s often no point to the block. The “dirt” talk will still happen, PLUS you run the risk of alienating a lot of bystanders with the block. So I discourage it.
Although we have placed many different blocks on our website, I have personally only placed ONE block on our Facebook page, and even that block was mandated to me by our attorney. I do, however, have an employee that is charged with watching our social media, and she has complete discretion to make whatever decisions she wishes, and I almost never question her about it. I trust my employees.
Those are our internal policies, together with the “how” and the “why” for them. These policies have been in place for about 15 years— most of the history of our company. Hopefully it will get you thinking about what you might want to do in your particular case.
I wish all the readers the greatest success possible throughout the year, and look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at Rose 2020 in June.