Internet Marketing Rampant With Crappy Customer Service

At a recent meeting of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County ? a group whose members are like-minded humanists — a speaker said that a precept of the organization is:

?Every person deserves to be treated fairly and kindly.?

This is great advice especially if you are an Internet marketer. Because from what I see, there are many Internet marketers who don?t follow this rule.

I hear complaints all the time from people. They tell me they bought a product online, but when they called about returning it, the Internet marketer became abrupt and rude.

Or they tell me about Internet marketers who flat out refuse, on the flimsiest of excuses, to honor their money-back guarantees.

I hear horror stories of Internet marketers who recruit affiliates, let them generate sales, and then don?t send commission checks.

A lot of consumers are frustrated that Internet marketers are so darn inaccessible.

I mean, if you have a problem with your phone line, you can call the phone company and eventually get a real person on the phone, right?

But when you want to complain to an Internet marketer, there more often than not is no mailing address or phone number.

And when you send them an e-mail, you get a response from a robot ? an auto-responder ? and not a live human being.

The e-mail tells you how busy the marketer is. Sometimes it promises a return call from a person ? which usually never comes.

The collective sigh of all the Internet customers who despair at the treatment they receive from Internet marketers is palpable.

?But,? you argue, ?I can?t personally respond to each complaint. That?s what I have an auto-responder or an assistant for.?

First of all, assuming your products are a good value, you?re not getting all that many complaints to begin with.

Second of all, you probably could respond to all of them, if you wanted to.

SL, a major catalog marketer, writes a personal note of apology ? and sends it along with a small gift ? whenever his rather large catalog company gets an unhappy customer.

If SL can do it, you and I can do it too.

But let?s say you are busy, and can personally respond to only a fraction of the complaints you get. What should you do?

Well, I hired a part-time assistant in my Internet marketing business, and it?s her job to handle all complaints and special requests, which she does with sensitivity and common sense.

However, I see all the complaints first, and I pick certain ones to handle personally.

If you do the same, which customers should you give extra special attention to?

There are two types: (1) the excellent customer and (2) the extremely unhappy customer.

The excellent customer is someone who can?t stop buying your products, has been easy to service, and raves about you to everyone he knows.

Only now they are asking for something a bit out of the ordinary ? and have created a special situation that must be handled.

Since satisfied customers are your most important asset, you want to go to extremes to keep these extremely happy customers happy.

For instance, one wanted to substitute for the free bonus report I was offering one of my e-books ? something we don?t give away.

But he had bought tons from us, so I happily gave it to him.

The other type of customer you want to handle personally and with great care is the extremely unhappy customer.

Reason: unhappy customers tell other people. The more unhappy they become, the more people they complain about you to — and the louder they say it.

In the good old days, an unhappy customer told maybe 5 or 10 other people.

But with social networking, they can tell thousands with a few key strokes and mouse clicks.

I had a problem with a product I bought online, but could get no satisfaction from the seller, who refused to even take my call.

So I wrote about it on my blog.

Within 24 hours, the marketer called, apologized profusely, immediately fixed the problem, and begging me to remove the post from my blog.

I have heard of Internet marketers who blow their stacks at customers, particularly older customers, who aren?t that computer literate and have trouble opening and reading an e-book or downloading and listening to a podcast.

They may frustrate you and try your patience, but think about how frustrated they must feel. They just bought great content from you, and now they can?t access it.

Every person deserves to be treated fairly and kindly. Are you treating every customer and prospect fairly? Do you do it angrily or kindly?

One more thing: add unadvertised grace periods to your money-back guarantees.

For instance, if you have a 90-day money-back guarantee and the customer returns your product on day 92, should you give him his money back anyway?

Yes, because you want to treat him fairly and kindly ? just like you?d want to be treated when returning an item to a store.

And if you treat your customers fairly and kindly, they will deal with you in the same way.


224 thoughts on “Internet Marketing Rampant With Crappy Customer Service

  • Angry customers who post about a company’s failures (real or perceived) through social media channels can devastate a brand in nothing flat unless the company responds with a well-considered rebuttal or apology. One of my copywriting clients actually hires me to craft such statements. They realize that the only right response is a calm, sympathetic, eloquent one. They also realize that “the Internet is forever” — a hot-headed, brusque or whiney reply only validates the original complaint, and once it’s there, it stays put for all the world to see.

  • Dear Mr. Bly,

    I don’t have a web-site up yet for my hat as a writer so the one I have above is one I started for my photo greeting cards. I’m very interested in making better income as a copywriter and I have been reading your books from my local library which have been helpful. It’s great to find you have a site and are still there and communicating! Thank you for helping me benefit from your experience.

  • Bob,
    Great topic. I’ve been going through exactly what you described with one of the biggest guru’s in IM – Stompernet. It has been impossible to connect with customer service to fix a billing problem – emails not responded to, a full mailbox on their 800 number. A simple problem has become huge. 6 months after starting with this wrangle, I finally got a decent response – an apology and a bonus offer to compensate me for my time. But after that lone email – no responses to my queries to clarify things. Just some anonymous invoices.

    It’s especially frustrating to see a company focused so much on modeling successful internet business doing such a poor job on the customer service end.

    Certainly, when I’m taken care of right I not only become a customer for life, but an advocate.

  • Too many people focus on marketing a crappy product or service. There’s a great, short book called “Selling the Invisible” which hits the nail on the head. Fix your product or service first, then market it. That should seriously reduce your “unhappy/happy” customer ratio.


  • Good post, Bob,

    This is just not rocket science. Seems to me a lot of IM’s are like spoiled children. They want all the goodies that go along with a successful Internet business, but none of those annoying, inconvenient customer service issues. Course, as you say, if you’re putting out solid products, you’re likely to get few complaints.

    But so many companies aren’t, so why should they be surprised when they do have unhappy customers? Those are the ultimate spoiled brats: too lazy to do a good job on the front end nor handle problems on the back end.

    I make a game out of customer service, asking myself: how can I make this person walk away not only with a smile on their face, but amazed at a level of customer service they rarely if ever find today. AND motivated to tell a bunch of people about it.

    I never let it get close to being out of hand. Just not worth it, and, frankly, too much fun to blow people’s minds to the positive.

    And in truth, and I’m sure you’ll back me up on this, it take SO little (in both actions and $) to make someone happy, so why wouldn’t you?


  • Great post!!

    Customer service is everything to the survival of a business these days. That’s outside of having an excellent product too. Knowing that someone representing a company cares enough to see that you are fully satisfied means everything to that person. And it does get spread around too. Especially on the internet!!


  • Great points. Much of them seem like common sense. How old is The Golden Rule?

    As a fellow copywriter, I’m getting more involved in social media work for clients, and what you say about online networking should be underlined, bold, all-capped: disgruntled customers have vast new ways to share their disappointment. Don’t dismiss them.

    For instance, much is being make in the advertising biz regarding “listening,” primarily on Twitter. Businesses are learning that customers talk about them, for better or for worse, on social networking sites. Some are even considering moving their entire customer service platform away from traditional call centers and toward Twitter, or Twitter-like, platforms.

    So yeah. Listen for your name out there. People are talking. And treat them well.

    Good post.

  • I gave refunds even after the trial period. And sometimes not having a contact page or email on the site would make me think twice before purchasing.

    Am I the only one reacting like this?

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