Learning how to make the best of customer complaints – the hard way

Knickermail-lg.jpgWe’ve had a good number of KnickerMail orders since the launch in December. It’s hardly the next Amazon, but a healthy niche e-commerce site that makes a bit of money and puts smiles on faces of customers around the world.

What I love most about KnickerMail is that it’s taught me more about ecommerce in a couple months that I’ve learned in the last ten years. And one of the biggest lessons has been solving customer complaints.

Before starting KnickerMail we knew what Royal Mail could and couldn’t do in the UK but we weren’t counting on receiving the majority of orders from the US and mainland Europe. Royal Mail’s website led us to believe that the basic delivery service works almost as good as the more expensive options, so that’s what we usually opted for. Big mistake. The basic service works well about seven times out of ten and is hopelessly late rest of the time.

This meant we’ve gotten around ten emails from worried customers. Some have just enquired about the delivery time, others have been less forgiving and have asked for a refund right away.

How do you deal with an unhappy customer?

I wasn’t sure. I had read books, and had spent a good couple of days working at the customer service team back at my Skype days. But I wasn’t sure what to reply when the first less than friendly emails started to arrive.

It didn’t help that at first we weren’t sure what the problem was. Might the delivery be done on the next day? Was this related to one particular area? Are they simply not happy with the purchase and are looking for a delicate way to get their money back?

I decided to use the mantra that Skype employed back in the day – delight the user. This meant offering a full refund straight away if the customer wasn’t happy. I figured it would take the pressure off if people knew that all they needed to do is say the word and they’d have all their money back. And I thought this would open them up to wait a little and, if worse came to worst, accept a new delivery instead of refund (which was better from our perspective – selling with lower margins vs. not selling anything at all).

Naturally, I also wanted to apologise straight away and answer as quickly as humanly possible. Apparently that’s the best thing you can do with an unhappy customer, as I vaguely recalled from some book or article. This sometimes meant typing emails to people in the US at 2AM from my phone in a mildly intoxicated state. The emails went something like this:

Hi name,

Really sorry to hear the recipient hasn’t received the package yet. The delivery time to US is usually around a week but we’ve learned that it can take up to two weeks to for KnickerMail to arrive to the US. I’ve updated the information on our site but I know this doesn’t help you much right now.

If KnickerMail doesn’t arrive in a couple of days please do let me know and I’ll either get you a full refund or send you a new package with the most expensive courier service out there. Really hope this didn’t dampen any plans!

Andrus I KnickerMail

Did it work?

Absolutely. Only one of the ten or so people that had contacted us have asked us for a refund (and immediately gotten it). And with many of the people I’ve developed a friendly email exchange where we’re both looking for ways to get KnickerMail to the lucky recipient. And in the end we’ve received emails like:

Thanks again for this example of good customer service. I’ll be sure to recommend your service to others.


I want to thank you for your customer service and timely response and effort, it says a lot about the people behind the product and I do intend to use it again and spread the word.

I don’t really see the need for a refund, so hope I can come back to you for your offer of a next time free order as soon as you have new models available.

Heartwarming to get emails like this from people you’ve kind of let down.

PS. We’ve added a section with pessimistic delivery times to the site and are using premium postage services now. Perhaps the best way of dealing with a problem is eliminating it in the first place.

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