Lessons learned from customer complaints related to manufacturer

By Tony Lam

  • SumoMe

I received one of the most serious customer complaints around Christmas time in 2012. An eBay buyer complained that the snake skin in the cultural musical instrument she bought was fake. The bow was completely falling apart and it felt like plastic, not wood. This was the first time I was complained to be selling fake products with such a bad quality. Although I was pretty sure the snake skin is real, I didn’t want to argue with the customer.  I thought it might be misunderstanding or unmatched expectation, like the other customer complaints. My passion of selling is not to let myself disappoint any customer I met. In this case, frankly speaking, I had no clue that I could able to resolve the issue nicely. I prayed for God to give me wisdom, and made my best effort to satisfy the buyer.  After lots of eBay’s messages to and fro with the buyer, I got the item returned back ultimately, hoping it was the end of the nightmare. I learned something new through the process and want to share with you.

serious complaint

Step 1: Show empathy and resolve any misunderstanding

I said sorry about the complaint and asked what made her think that the snake skin was fake even though an official snake skin export certificate was attached, and requested the buyer to send me pictures showing defect for further investigation.

Response  from buyer :  “i will be opening a dispute about this so i hope that you are going to work this out, i am really unhappy”

Step 2: Make every effort to make the buyer happy again

I forwarded the complaint to the supplier and the manufacturer for investigation and requested a proof for genuine snake skin and solid wood. In the meantime, I put an end to all the listings related to this product and offered full refund to buyer.

Response  from buyer :  “ i am thankful that you have responded and am hopeful that your manufacturer will disclose the truth to you as this is quite a joke!!”

After that, the buyer sent me pictures and reaffirmed that material is fake and said “it is so shocking that i want to write to eBay to tell on all of them, for poor people like me end up very disappointed or ignorant. i will get to the post office when i can an tell you how much it will cost to send back to you and then you can send me that money and cover the cost of my efforts and packaging to return it.”

Step 3 : Keep the promises that I made to follow up with the vendor

Receiving no reply from the manufacturer about the buyer’s allegations, I requested the vendor to get hold of the manufacturer’s contact. Finally, I got the email from the manufacturer via the supplier saying that they admitted to produce synthetic boa skin for lower models only, but they seem not to be purchased from my supplier.

Step 4 : Take accountability and report politely the findings to the buyer

Noted that the buyer didn’t want to pay for the return shipping, I sent a return label at my cost. Although the manufacturer didn’t confirm if my model fell into the list of “lower models”, I reported politely what I found to the buyer.

Lesson learned in this customer complaint related to manufacturer

Always treat feedback and customer complaints with respect. Customer’s interest should be the first priority. Sometimes, our judgment is not always right and the truth may never be found when involving a third party such as the manufacturer. If risk or loss is inevitable, the business owner should hold the accountability. In the long run, reputation will be earned. This is a painful and costly lesson I learned. You may not agree with my points but I love to hear yours.


More reading…

The 4 Step Method to Handle Customer Complaints

When a customer feels they have been treated unfairly or that they did not receive what they expected, they will complain…. and more

Category: Communication with buyers

Shipping Large Items