Friday 8 February 2013

Friday Rant - Poor Customer Service

Like many gamers I purchase a lot of the paints, accessories and miniatures I want online. I personally feel that 'my' hobby has benefited from the growth of Internet shopping because I can search and find products that I might never have found at a show or in a FLGS. Maybe the product I want is very rare, or maybe its only available outside the UK. No matter where it is, how rare or obscure it might be, I can find it with the right browser search terms and a little patience. But it seems to me that some online retailers still have a lot to learn about customer service.

I should make it clear that I still think there is an important place in the high street for real game shops and that I still visit them and buy from traders at shows. Indeed I made a quick estimate of my hobby spending last year and three quarters of it was conducted face to face with traders rather than across the World Wide Web. The great benefit of direct purchases like this is the 'relationship' you have with the trader. I'm not suggesting they are my personal buddies or that we are on first name terms, but dealing with a human being rather than a web page is obviously a more interactive experience. I can get a feeling for what sort of business they run, how they deal with customers and whether they are 'my sort of people' (i.e. gamers themselves). Its hard to achieve that online, although it has to be said that many of the companies I buy from via the Internet I have previously bought from at shows and shops.

However sometimes I do deviate from online traders that I know personally. Sometimes the service and experience is excellent but recently I seem to have encountered online retailers that fall far below my expectations for good customer service. And when I talk about customer service I'm largely talking about good communication skills.

For me communication is everything because its part of building the 'relationship' between customer and supplier that the Internet doesn't normally provide. OK something has gone wrong, but this should be seen as an opportunity not a disaster. Its an opportunity to speak directly to the customer and reassure them that you care about their order and their loyalty as a consumer. For example my very first purchase from Skytrex was online and as it turned out there were issues that resulted in a delay in delivery. It eventually took close to four weeks from my miniatures to arrive, but I was OK with that because I received several emails notifying me of the problem and asking me how I would like to proceed. My needs as a customer were put first meaning I felt valued and I have happily placed several more orders with them since.

I have also encountered radically different experiences with other online retailers. Long period of utter silence; unanswered requests for information; inexplicable delays in delivery; 'customer account' pages that never get updated. I won't name names because they might just have been having a bad day, or there might have been perfectly reasonable issues I didn't know about. But as I'll never know what those issues were (because they weren't communicated to me) they have already lost my faith in them and I'll spend my money elsewhere.

I think that word faith is actually quite important here. When I buy in a shop or at a show I have the product in my grasp and all I have to do is hand over the cash. But with online purchases we relinquish our credit card details for products that we haven't even seen yet. We trust they have the stock they claim. We hope they will delivery promptly as promised. We assume that our order will be accurately met. In short we show faith that the retailer will live up to their half of the bargain. And when they don't (or when things go wrong and they don't reassure us with good communications) we feel all the more let down and disappointed as a result.


  1. This was really about the two pics that Fran and me posted about your bald spot wasn't it?

    1. I'm just amazed your cameras could cope with the glare.

  2. Interesting post with some very good points. Shopping online does require a leap of faith. I've had mixed experiences, mostly positive but some simply awful. I still prefer to buy the majority of my lead and plastic from shops (but these normally have a limited stock range) or shows (I can only attend one or two shows a year) but occasionally I will order online, typically for items the manufacturers don't normally take to shows.

    Another issue is that unless the supplier is willing and able to deliver to my work place (understandably some will only deliver to the billing address) I still have to go and pick up the package from the local Post Office, which isn't exactly convenient for me.


  3. Oddly I have found that the best Online comms and service I get now is from Foundry Miniatures. In my opinion they have turn a full 360 and I look at their figures first for things I need. I have not tried the paints yet.

  4. How good timing is this? I received today from Critical Hit (Third Party ASL Producer) a set of replacement counters including extra free ones in apology that the originals were printed with faults. It cost them $10 to post them as well! All good except that they answered neither e-mail about this, great service tarnished by lack of communication.


  5. I think the problem is more due to a gulf between what different people feel is good customer service. I'm guessing that, like me, you're from the 'customer is always right generation' and unfortunately it's not a maxim shared by more recent ones.

    As you say, online trading is done on trust and faith and we pay up front... imagine a shop that insisted on you paying for what you wanted before they actually spoke to you and then informed you that they didn't have it, but they'd hang onto the money anyway until they did.

    I'm thinking of Mr Man in the shop from 'Little Britain' for some reason now.

  6. Simply put; there is a vast gulf between the service given by different on-line (and local stores). The bad news is that I'm not sure there is an answer.

    Actually there is an answer - but I'm not sure there is a real satisfactory outcome or result.

    Good luck with your little problem.


  7. Living on the other side of the Earth I have little option but to trust the internet, but customer service is important in who I choose to go with, not just in the frequency of communication, but also sometimes in the imagined tone of the replies. There is at least one online trader that I won't go back to because I'm not sure if their curt replies were impatience, rudeness or just their manner.
    We also live in the age of the post-Maelstrom Games meltdown, and that has made many people wary. Most of my friends lost some money down that hole, so we are careful now with where we trade.
    Thanks for the post, Lee.

  8. Name and shame Lee, name and shame! Love the un-amused cat photo - says it all!


  9. Yes, name and shame - do your fellow gaming mates a favour so we don't order from these charlatans inadvertably too ;)

  10. I'm with the others, Big L. I ordered some PzGdrs from Defiance Games in Aug 12. Eventually I emailed them direct in Jan 13 and Lo ! and Behold ! They turned up pretty quick. Puppets War (in Poland) were accommodating, including a handful of freebies in the package.

    But we need to know about the bad one's as well.


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