It Always Starts With an Email.....

Grumpy Entrepreneurial Customer Service

Very recently, a fellow member of a mastermind group expressed some confusion as to what to do with a customer on eBay that refused to pay for an item. Let’s call our new friend “Bob.” Bob’s customer emailed to let him know that their child had gained access to their eBay account and clicked all the right buttons to purchase, just not pay for, a item that the parent had no intention of buying.

“Bob” wanted to know from the group what he should do in this situation. Force them to pay? Cancel the transaction and let the next highest bidder win? This was all new and he was at a loss on how to handle it.

There were many answers offered by the group to Bob’s predicament:

  • Open an unpaid claim as soon as you can

  • Threaten them with action if they don’t pay in 24 hours

  • Tell them where to shove their BS

Now, I don’t blame these folks for saying those things. I have been in their shoes and have felt the same way before. With all of the talk of eBay scammers and just general online scamming, you can get upset about what goes on before it even happens to you. Teaching scammers and mind changers a lesson are the first things that can easily pop into anyone’s mind that has spent more than a few weeks selling anything online. Whether they have been taken advantage of or not.

As you can imagine, I have issues with the advice that was given to ole “Bob”. So before I share my advice that I gave Bob, let’s look at five issues that I see being pervasive in all forms of customer service; on and offline. Especially with entrepreneurs. 

Your Approach Lacks Humbleness

Whether you are cold approaching a client online or dealing with an unruly customer, you must approach everything with the mindset that this is the person that signs my checks. Every, single, time.

“So what, I should bend over backwards and just give into everything people say because they’re going to give me a little bit of money?”

Not at all. We’ll get more into this later, but you should always approach all customer situations with confidence and humbleness, even if the customer wants something you can’t provide them. You can still deliver a "No." with a smile and not seem smug about it.

True humbleness is something that seems to escape most people these days, especially we Americans. We get so many mixed messages in our lives:

  • “Be polite.”

  • “Don’t let them get one over on you like that!”

  • “Treat a lady with respect.”

  • “Treat women a little crappy and they will respect you more.”

Wait..... what?

At some point, things became polarized. Either you are an angel or a devil. You’re either weak or strong. It almost seems like there isn’t a grey area. And this comes through in our everyday lives and business dealings.

So many these days, approach life and business like everyone is out to get them. And they’ll be damned if they are the one that is going to get rolled over. So before the customer has the chance to open their mouth, a connotation of the situation has already been made in our minds.

“Think you’re going to scam / screw me out of the money I thought I had earned? Yeah right, let’s go biggin’!”


You Have to Be Right

Here’s something I can be guilty about BIG TIME! It doesn’t matter what the situation is, you just HAVE to be right. “It’s not blue, it’s SKY blue.” “But you originally said to put it to the left of the tomato, didn’t you?”

See how stupid those things sound? How many times do you get yourself wrapped up in things like this and let it drain you of so much energy and it was about all where to put the damn recyclable?

Let’s take “Bob” for instance. By eBay rules, this situation of his is pretty cut and dry. That account confirmed to pay for an item and that account should be held responsible, regardless of whom was the person pressing the buttons. That part isn’t the seller’s problem, it is the buyer’s problem to get that situation rectified.

So, Bob would be right in potentially telling his customer to “suck it up and adhere to eBay’s policies. Not my fault you let your kid gain access to your account.”


You Have to Teach Them a Lesson

When did people start taking it upon themselves to teach the “unruly and scammy” customers a lesson? “They shouldn’t be doing that to people and the buck stops here! I’m filing a complaint / making them do _____!” Fill in the blank, it doesn’t matter, I think you know what I am talking about. I’m guilty of it too.

The problem is, while we are wasting our time teaching them a lesson, we are losing time, money and adding undue stress to our lives with each click and keystroke. For what? So they can have one strike against their account? Maybe someone else will give them a strike as well and then they can’t bid on anyone’s stuff. Because when someone has two strikes on their account, they can't bid on other peoples auctions.


Guess what, most people don’t even implement those rules into their listings. And even if that customer gets enough strikes to get their account to be closed by eBay, they’ll open another one. Yeah, really. Happens everyday. It’s a losing battle, chief.

You Aren’t Gracious

When is the last time you started off an email to a customer with a “Thank you”?

Go ahead, I can wait. Most likely you can’t even think one time you started off an email with a thank you to someone. Maybe if they said nice things, you started an email with a thank you. In general though, saying it is a rare occurace is generous in the least.  

Personally, I try to do it with every initial email someone sends me when related to business. Whether they sent compliments or not, I still thank them for contacting me.

If it wasn’t for their interest, they wouldn’t have that question for me. If they didn’t have that question for me, how would I know what my customers are thinking? They are giving me the chance to look into my potential customers mind and learn what they want to know. This way I know how to serve my potential clients the best way possible.

Think about that. When was the last time you were thanked for just contacting a small company? It happens, but not that often. It is so easy to just go into what you have to say and forget completely about pleasantries. Which leads me into my last point.....

You Don’t Go Beyond the Rest

Why are you in business? To make money and live by your own rules? Sure, probably. But before you continue on with that thought process, let me remind you of something: You are in a service industry.

I don’t care who you are, unless you are royalty, you’re providing service in the form of products or your services. Even being a member of royalty, you are there to serve the good of your kingdom. If there is someone paying you money for something, you are SERVING them!

The only reason you are making an income is because they feel your services or product will serve as their means to an end and provides value that is equal to or greater the money you ask for it. When you really take this to heart, you will start to understand that if you want to continue to have this person take advantage of what you have to offer, you must go above and beyond the next guy.

What to know a secret? It isn’t that hard. I dare say that over 80% of people providing services hate their customer or in the least don’t even care about them. They want the money and then they are off to the next cash cow.

“You got what I have to give you, what more do you want?”

This can vary, but mostly what they want is your respect and full attention. I am going to go more into this and the other problems mentioned above on my website, but let’s leave here with this thought. When you are done with your job for the day or done helping a client or answering a customer question, I want you to ask them this and mean it......

“Is there anything I can do for you today or any other way I may be of service to you?”

Try it and see what happens. That little thing will blow someone away because it shows you care. It shows you are committed to them and their satisfaction. That sentence will easily set you apart from the pack and what did it cost? A little pride? Please.

Back to “Bob”........

After reading this far, you probably already have a good idea of what I told “Bob”, but let me just quote myself:

“It is annoying but just cancel the transaction and move on. I've tried making a point before and all it did was waste my time, hold up my product from being sold again and ensure that I will never have that person or their friends as a customer.


Let it go.

You'll feel a lot better.”

You see, it isn’t about winning, it isn’t about being right, it is about understanding someone’s situation and moving on. I hate to tell you this, but this is how grown ups act.

Stings a little, doesn’t it? But it is the truth. What “Bob” should do is write the customer and approach them with understanding. Sympathize with that customer on a personal level and maybe even joke about it. “Darn kids! lol”

Really. That one human act of empathy with let that customer know that you shouldn’t be thought of as a money monger (even if you are) and that you deserve their respect and attention. Maybe that customer won’t think anything of it and just move on. But maybe they will be taken back by how nice you were and put you on their favorite sellers list and tell your friends about you. Either way, it can’t hurt, can it?

Want some more, biggin’?

First off, thank you for reading this far. I know there has been a lot to take in from above, but I hope you have found it useful to you and has made you stop and reflect on your own customer service habits. We all need to do that from time to time, I know I do.

If you found this article helpful, I would be quite thankful to you for letting me know by clicking the thumbs up button below. The more I know I am helping folks out, really helps me help you. (Ya I know, corny.)

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who has a problem with their customer service skills? Do them a favor and share this article with them, then let me know what they think.

Grumpy Entrepreneurial Customer Service