Cranky Corner: Suggested Reply to Upset Customer over Shipping Quote Error

May 28, 2011
This was a suggested response to a customer who was upset that the shipping cost displayed by her eBay invoice was 3X the cost shown by the item page on a multple purchase. (Honor the first shipping price, you fraud, or cancel my order!)   

Dear Customer, I apologize for the problem you noticed with the shipping price eBay calculated for you. Thank you for letting me know about that. I’ve checked it, and the proper shipping price to you should have been $xx.xx. I can’t tell you why eBay made that mistake, but I can understand why you were surprised by it! I’ve reported the error to eBay. Meanwhile, if you’d care for me to ship this to you at the correct price of $xx.xx, I’ll be happy to send you a corrected invoice. If you’d prefer not to have these items, I’ll be happy to send you an order cancellation. I want you to be happy, and to have a fair deal. Thanks again! I look forward to hearing from you.     

  What’s going on:   

  • Always open and close with appreciation for customer bringing problem forward. We bitch about it when they don’t write us and just burn our feedback/DSRs, so we need to step up.  Even if they’re full of it and trying to pull a fast one – we don’t know for sure – so we just need to be professional and handle it that way.
  • Always apologize for the poor experience, whether it’s your fault, the platform’s fault, the full moon…. “I’m sorry” is often the most powerful way to extinguish a fire.
  • Empathize with the customer – I wouldn’t like it if my shipping quote tripled once I’d placed an order. I can understand that, ma’am.
  • Customer actually accused the Seller of fraud because the shipping price was one number, then was something else later at payment time. It is not a passing of blame to eBay, rather creating the understanding that the Seller is not personally calculating those costs in real time – it’s just a computer glitch, and eBay’s the one in charge of the computers at eBay! So we plant the seed that it’s an eBay thing, then water the idea by taking responsibility for notifying eBay of the glitch, finally harvesting a solution: here’s a corrected shipping amount.
  • With the identified problem solved – the shipping has been corrected – let the customer decide what will make her happy: the correct price, or cancel the deal.
  • Invest in making the customer happy, even if it’s to your apparent disadvantage of losing a sale. Since no money’s changed hands or product shipped, this is a no-brainer. Mutual Agreement to Cancel kills the trade and saves adverse feedback/DSRs. Completing the trade gets you paid. Win-win.
  • Be upbeat when possible. This disarms the negativity. If we’re professional, upbeat, interested in a solution that satisfies the customer… what’s not to like?
  • In this instance, I create a need for a customer response and invite her participation in solving her situation. This is a play to get her invested (if she stays with the deal, we don’t want her to hammer our DSRs anyway because we laid any demands on her). In other instances, a stronger call to action might be used, but I want a softer touch as a counterpoint to her harsh demeanor in the initial contact.

If her follow-on reponse states other demands or issues, the Buyer is just trying to angle for a discount.  Feedback will get mentioned along with a veiled threat. You refer that on to eBay for action. 

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