Abandon Hope, Ye Seekers of Customer Service!

by Jas Faulkner

Here’s the thing about me and customer service:  I know there are wonderful people who work the phones and chat lines.  They manage to make the experience of correcting someone else’s mess up as painless as possible.  Most of the time, I am lucky enough to get one of those hardworking people who are filling a position that is often thankless and hideously underpaid.  I love those people.  In fact, I usually send letters to call centers and compliment people who make it a point to not provide me with fodder for articles like this one.

However, there are times when I get people who have turned contrarian ineptitude into a piece of performance art that would send Diamanda Galas into a corner to weep softly and wave away a fit of the vapors so she could get back to terrifying unsuspecting music lovers.

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Nothing sends customers into a tizzy faster than a missing package.  Once it leaves your hands, there’s only so much you can do to find one of these waylaid packages.  Tracking SHOULD tell you where it is, but if it wasn’t scanned in at a step, it can appear to vanish in transit.  Or sometimes it even shows as delivered, but your customer still doesn’t have it.  International shipments can be particularly difficult because tracking doesn’t really work very well once it crosses the border… if at all.  At that point, the customer can often the package a lot faster than you can playing phone tag.  They just need a little reassurance that it’s not gone, its just temporarily mislaid, and here’s how to get it.

Here’s some common ways to resolve common “where’s my package!?!” woes.

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International Shipping: How Long Does It Really Take?

The shipping estimate on the USPS website is lovely, but its not actually guaranteed for most shipping classes.  For First Class mail, estimating when it will ACTUALLY arrive vs when the the USPS says it will can be frustrating.  Having shipped hundreds of packages overseas, here’s how I estimate when the overseas customer should be looking for it. This doesn’t guarantee this is when it will turn up… but it gives a narrower range than the 4-20 the USPS lists.

This is the estimate for First Class.  Priority is usually a little faster, but not guaranteed. Start with one day.    You’ll  add days for where it originates from and where its going TO.  If you don’t immediately recognize the destination, look it up on the internet.  Keep in mind this is BUSINESS DAYS.  Make this clear to the customer as well.  Holidays don’t count as “days” for the estimate!

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What Makes a 'Good' Bookseller

This question has been around for a long time, and naturally I have my firm opinions about what qualities and tasks booksellers should focus on. I’ve had a variety of bookselling experience-particularly in Lorry’s Book Company because of its unique stock–a blend of new titles, older but non collectible books, and some things at the … Read more

I Think It Had A Red Cover

As a bookseller at various stores, I can honestly say with, LOL, humility, that I was extremely customer oriented. Too much for one owner who found customers annoying and wouldn’t deal with them or authors unless forced to. There was, I’m not sure if this holds true now, a certain snobbishness in some independent bookstores. … Read more