I proudly support local and home businesses. Whether it’s a physical shop, online store or a business run on social media, there’s something about the journey in supporting local businesses and knowing you are directly supporting someone’s dream, the reaching of an important goal, or simply supporting a family.
Here’s My Experience
I was stumped on what to get my family for Eid this year (as gifts). So I was quite thrilled when I came across a new home business that sold fancily wrapped chocolates in custom-made ‘Eid Mubarak‘ wrapping, housed in a smart, delicate and elegant box. This is ideal to place on the Eid table. I placed an order for 5 boxes and made payment that same night – which was 3 weeks before Eid. I had an agreement with the business owner: I had to receive the products, latest, 3 days before Eid.
On the cut-off day, the entire day went by and nothing arrived. I started to panic. It was a Friday afternoon; the delivery was addressed to my office. Aramex doesn’t deliver over the weekend, Eid was due to be on Monday and I was on leave from Eid until the following week. The business owner was well aware of this arrangement as I told her more than once.
I messaged her on Instagram, as I had only realised then that I didn’t get a tracking number for the parcel. Two hours went by and there was no reply. I tried calling the number provided on the Instagram profile, but it went to voice mail (over and over). I sent a WhatsApp message. I got the tracking number 30 mins later. I called Aramex. It turned out that the package was posted late on Thursday, which meant that it didn’t qualify for overnight delivery. I had to wait until Monday.
I was absolutely disappointed.
I let her know that I won’t be receiving the package on the time we agreed. She apologised and said she “truly thought” I would get it by Friday. Since she willingly offered to use Aramex to deliver my package, I assumed she’d know that it has to be posted before 12 pm for the overnight delivery. She said she feels terrible, asked if she could do anything and asked if there’s no way I could receive the package before then.
Okay, so it was a mistake. Nobody’s perfect. That’s fine. I’ll get over the disappointment in 10 mins. Which I did…
So I finally fetched the package on Wednesday (2 days after Eid). Upon opening it up, this is what I found:
- 5 of those delicate boxes stacked together and smashed
- No padding/bubble wrap/secure box to keep them in place
- Chocolates jumbled up inside with Prestik in between
- Some chocolates were completely out of the wrapping
- No bubblewrap inside to keep the chocolates stable/in place
- Some chocolates had their foil scratched out
- Some ‘Eid Mubarak‘ printed wrappers were stretched (the image looked pixelated and sub-standard)
I stood horrified.
I tried calling her number, but of course it went to voice mail. I messaged on WhatsApp to tell her the boxes are all damaged, the chocolates are all over the place and I can’t gift these. She replies immediately (wow, right?), says sorry, says none of her other courier customers had issues, and asked for pictures.
I sent about 7 images, that showed the extent of almost ALL the damaged boxes and chocolates. I received no reply, no apology, no offer for a discount, no offer for a refund, nothing at all.
She was silent.
I was still upset the next day, and after discussing this with my sisters, they advised me that, indeed, I should give her a piece of my mind… but not a harsh one. So I crafted a message that was straight forward, as objective as possible, and mentioned the facts. I concluded the message with the fact that I felt cheated, there was no proper customer service I received from her and the lack of communication was both rude and unprofessional.
She didn’t reply!
Here’s What I’ve Learnt
The truth is that there’s nothing I can do. But learn from my experience. And I wondered where I might have went wrong in the decision-making. While my experience was awful, I don’t believe giving someone a chance, and by someone I mean a new business, is a bad thing. There’s just that risk of having a truly terrible experience. Which I did. Unfortunately. I will, however, remember the following the next time:
- Get a contactable/working mobile number of the business. Do not rely on WhatsApp/Instagram alone for communication.
- Make sure I have the tracking number of the parcel the day that it gets posted.
- Make sure the new business owner actually KNOWS HOW TO USE the chosen courier service provider.
- Ask for close-up images of the products so I know what to expect (stretched images haunt me).
- Find out if others have purchased from the business before, and enquire about the experience.
For a moment I felt like maybe I was too trusting. Maybe I was. But if we don’t give people a chance, how will we know their capability? There are two things that are for sure… I won’t be supporting her again. And should I come across anyone who wants to, I will be sharing my experience with them as a precautionary measure.
Here’s What Home Businesses Need To Know
I’ve previously discussed the five most common mistakes home businesses make on Instagram that I’ve personally come across, but now I have little more I’d like to share. If you are new home business, or an existing one, and social media is the platform you use, then please take heed:
- Always provide a contactable/working mobile number and email address.
- Reply to your customers/potential customers on time. This is just as important as the previous point!
- Your customer service skills need to be on-point. The journey of making a purchase, and post-purchase, is as emotional as it is physical (in receiving the goods/services). Your customers should always feel like they’ve made the right choice in choosing you, when they communicate with you.
- Acknowledge where things went wrong and learn to offer a sincere apology for it (whether you are at fault or not).
- Offer a discount, a voucher, a refund, or a product to make up for the damaged goods your customer received. This goes a long way! (And you won’t have people like me around, making blog posts about your lack of service).
- Be aware of different courier service providers and what their processes are like, so there’s no disappointment or late deliveries.
- When delivering delicate products, take time and care in packaging them properly so that it remains secure. While you cannot control how courier companies will treat the package, you can be smart in packaging it properly to prevent major damage.
I think I’ve covered everything that the new business I used was unaware of (if this is your business and you are reading this, I hope you learn something, no actually I hope you learn and implement everything I’ve mentioned so others don’t feel cheated and go through what I did).
Here’s Where You Can Judge For Yourself
Since sending my last message, I have been blocked from her Instagram account. But I have two accounts, so I still managed to access it to take pictures of what I paid for.
While I am not an unreasonable customer, I was inspired to do this for a number of reasons, but the most outstanding one was the fact that even after enough time given to respond to my feedback, I have not received a response.
Have you got some constructive criticism to share? Please do!