Since starting the Calamityware store, I’ve discovered some things about customer service that weren’t obvious to me from the start. Let me share some of these insights with you...the customers.
Customer service isn’t optional. It would be marvelous to simply have transactions with customers—collecting money in exchange for delivering something of value—the end. But that’s not an option.
Why? Two reasons.
First, real customers in the real world sometimes have something they want to tell you. They may have special needs that must be addressed. They might need something to be delivered at a special time or to an unusual place. They will have questions about your product that you could never anticipate. They will want to tell you about how they want you to change your product to better match their needs. Or they will have ideas for new products, feedback to share, or praise for how your product has made things more pleasant at their house. All this and much more means that someone needs to listen to and respond to all these messages. That listening and responding is the beginning of customer service.
The second reason for customer service is that sometimes things go wrong. Despite the most careful plans, addresses can be wrong, packages can be late, and porcelain (and everything else) can break. Responding to those inevitable problems is the other part of customer service.
So, some level of customer service is needed every day to listen and to cope with the astonishing variety of problems that pop up. Doing nothing isn’t an option.
Don’t let Don do customer service. While I have a high level of empathy for the issues that customers describe, I’m not qualified to fix everything. I’m a fallible human being who finds the challenge of accurate zip codes, correct tracking numbers, and efficient coordination of tasks too daunting. Besides, I’d rather be sketching ideas in my notebook or refining the next new product.
What’s needed are some smart, empathetic, pragmatic people to provide the high level of customer service folks deserve. Here at Calamity Worldwide headquarters, that’s the job of my good friends Lynnette and Jack Kelley.
Lynnette and Jack are married. I’ve known them for more than 20 years. We’ve worked together at ThoughtForm Inc. for decades. The list of tasks they do is extra long and includes customer service. To all the customers who have written to say how pleased they have been with how we took care of a problem, it is Lynnette and Jack who deserve the credit. They are the best.
Lynnette and Jack both have day jobs, so the effort they put into Calamityware projects is only evenings or days off. Nevertheless, they routinely manage to win praise for their alacrity and consideration.
Don’t try to be too big for your britches. In case you didn’t know, the Calamityware enterprise isn’t a big corporation. We’re not even a little corporation. Picture Don sketching funny ideas in his notebook and the Kelleys helping him turn some of those ideas into Kickstarter projects and then offering the resulting products for sale here in this e-commerce store. That’s it. No towering corporate offices, no vast factories, no armies of obedient managers and minions, no corporate jets.
What does that fact have to do with customer service? First, it means we can be fast. We don’t have to worry about policy manuals and quarterly reports. We can fix a problem without convening a meeting of department heads or getting approval from some committee.
Even better, it means that we can say no. In fact, “No” must be the answer to all the customer-service queries about customizing our product designs, altering packaging, changing delivery methods, or any other idea that will increase complexity or reduce the pleasure we get from our projects. For us, complexity is the enemy of fun.
Enjoy the stories; enjoy the praise. I don’t know how often the big, corporate juggernauts receive messages from satisfied customers sharing stories of the pleasure a product has provided or of someone’s delight with a customer service experience. But, we seem to get these stories fairly often and we love them. Part of the fun of solving a customer service problem is relishing the thank-you note that might result. It’s like receiving a gift.
If you had a good experience with Calamityware customer service and want to share, please tell your story in the notes field at the bottom of this blog. We love to read them. It keeps us going.
Pittsburgh, May 16, 2018