Two customers recently complained about orders that arrived late to their destinations. One was ordered through Etsy during the holidays. It was an order for a single button, which was shipped using stamps and cost $0.60 in postage. The customer left “neutral” feedback as a result. The second was ordered through my own web site using UPS Ground. It was supposed to be a Valentine’s Day gift, but arrived the following Tuesday. That customer wanted a full refund.
Both customers, referring to quoted transit estimates on the USPS and UPS web sites, were annoyed that their shipments took two weeks to arrive. This is perfectly understandable — I have received shipments that took weeks when they were supposed to take days and I was annoyed, too — but they left my company’s hands on time, and shipping estimates are just that — estimates. Winter weather can cause all sorts of cross-country delays. I would never think to ask for my money back or penalize a company for delays due to the Postal Service or UPS, especially if I had chosen a non-guaranteed shipping option like First Class Mail or UPS Ground.
Despite feeling principally certain that my business carried out its responsibilities properly, I wanted my customers to feel listened to and fairly treated. It seemed unreasonable to offer refunds for products that were not defective and were not being returned, but I wanted to keep these customers coming back. To the first customer, therefore, I offered another button or charm free of charge. She declined the offer, but was glad that I made the effort, and she upgraded my feedback. To the second customer I offered a $20 gift certificate, which she accepted as a good compromise.
I might normally think of these as expensive ways to sastisfy customers who are angry at another company’s mistakes, but they both provided a valuable service to me: pointing out flaws in the clarity of my shipping and return policies. That’s the sort of practical education I’m willing to pay for.