Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best Ways to Mis-communicate and Thoroughly SUCK at Customer Service

If you have never seen "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" I would highly recommend it. It's like consuming marshmallows and then having them sucked out of your eyeballs while listening to a never-ending mix-tape of Ice Cream Truck music. Why am I talking about Flapjack? I saw this exact episode the other day, and it brought me to tears. As you can see, he's holding a duck, and he's TRYING to make it into what he needs in his life, but it keeps quacking.

That's how I feel about customer service most days. I have all of my own ideas about how things should go, what the customers should get, and how to make a win/win situation out of every transaction. The customers oftentimes have other ideas. The grueling part is figuring out how to combine the "gluten" of expectations with the "butter" of abilities and the "sugar" of success all into one lovely batter to make delicious cupcakes that everyone can share!!

Let me start out by saying that I'm FAR from perfect at customer service. Many of you will be nodding your heads and thinking profanities about me whilst reading this. I'm sorry, that's all I can say. The POSITIVE thing here is that I learn from every mistake and complete failure that I make, which means I learn something new about 20 times a day. Rather than giving you a cute little list of "Ways to Make the Customers EVEN Happier!", I will give you a list of ways to blindly blunder and misfire when trying to run your own little small company. (Remember, I only know about running small businesses, so if you're some bigwig CEO reading this.....oh, never mind, why in the freak would you read this?)

The BEST ways to Mis-communicate and Thoroughly Suck At Customer Service:

1.Remember, you're ALWAYS right! :) (*sigh* The irony here is that "The Customer is Always Right" is...well....right. You won't get anywhere with protesting and sputtering out indignant declarations of omnipotence. SO WHAT if you know EVERYTHING about the company and built it from the ground up with your blood, sweat, and tears???? So WHAT if you design, perfect, and manufacture the product? They don't care if you spend 20 hours a day working, and then dream about the company at night, whilst they think about their order for maybe 10 minutes a day. It DOES NOT MATTER. They need to feel right, because that's what they're paying for. Let them have it.

2.Another way to suck? Pretend that you are self-employed because you wanted to be your own boss. Aahahahahahahaahha. Friends, I would like to welcome you to the reality of "self-employment". Rather than having one single boss to answer to, you end up having hundreds and thousands. The customer is the boss of you! If they're crappy at managing, belittle you, or make you feel like a pile of leftover McDonald's fries, they're STILL your boss. Now, gratefully, in my own company, the "crappy boss" is definitely the exception. 99.9% of my customers end up being marvelous bosses, but they're still ALL my boss, telling me what to do, telling me how and when to do it, and giving me deadlines and ultimatums.

3.Hope you'll get rich. wah, wah. wah. I'm fairly convinced that the only way you ever get rich when running your own small business is to find people who want to purchase your company for a large amount of money.

4.. A great way to fail? Try to take a vacation and get some relaxation. Unless you're in the mood to go and get a lobotamy, just remember, your company will NEVER leave your brain, especially if you work from home. You won't ever be able to "leave work at work".

5.Last way to fail? Think that you can do it all alone.
When I started this company, I was adamant about not ever getting to be a huge company. I LOVED answering 15 emails a day from excited customers about my 3 items that I had on ebay. Squee! That meant I could answer my mail in the morning, hop onto my sewing machine, and sew all of my pending orders in one day. Fast Forward 6 years. We get roughly 200 emails a day, I have a whole crew comprised of my family, over which I constantly crack the whip of injustice! I slave, sacrifice, and stumble over every day, and it's still not enough. If every part of each day was spent with all of my crew doing money-making things, it would be spectacular, but we spend a goodly amount planning, tagging, dictating the answers to emails that are just broad-based questions rather than orders, altering, reinforcing, photographing, packing, labeling, stressing, crying, yelling, giving up on life, eating Cadbury Mini Eggs, apologizing, comforting, inspecting, and getting beaten to a pulp. And then, the next day we get to do it all over again.

So, hopefully this didn't come off as too stressed out or bitter. It's been a HARD couple of months, to say the least. Every time I post something that's truly from my heart, I have a few ladies who find it necessary to write me nasty emails about how unprofessional I am. Bring it on, ladies. Bring. It. On.


  1. one day....I am dying to be one of your bosses. This is the toughes part in a manufacturing business. if you go bigger...WHEN you go bigger...things will change again. you are a mum,you know what I am talking about when I tell you a business is like a baby. and sometimes...a mum has to yell at her kids ;)
    lots of love and light.
    P.s. you made your own way so far (and now you are in teh depth of the jungle somedays and are a little afraid cause you can't see the mainstream sheep road anymore). HOW freaking COOOOOOL is that

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well I still think you are awesome, Michelle. So there. TAKE THAT!



    (trying post again without typos. too early in the morning I guess.)

  4. I'm sorry you're feeling so stressed, but I can see how things are stressful. Where as I don't own a business I do know what it's like to lead a stressful life, which is why I strive to not make things stressful for others. I'm not sure if I'm on of those annoying "Bosses" who send you e-mails that are of little use or mean sounding, but I do try not to.

    I mean I think you are great and I love giving you business because I definitely make use of everything I've ever ordered from you! I would hate to think I were adding to your stress but then I imagine it probably couldn't be helped if things were going crazy for you.

    Just know that you are adored for the things you do and for who you are!

    Oh and I am definitely one to go after those Cadbury Eggs, which is probably why we don't purchase that many because I'd have a very difficult time limiting myself!

    ~Aimee Taylor

  5. Michelle - women NEED to know that this is what it's like to own a small business. Most women who run their own small business have NO CLUE when they start out what it is gong to be like if they become successful - or even busy. I was sort of lucky. My parents owned their own business when I was small and it was a NightMare most of the time. That is why I do not ever want my family, at least while we have kids in the house, to be dependent upon self-employment income. (But then, my parent's marriage would have been a NightMare without the added stress of self-employment anyway so I admit that I'm a bit unreasonable in this regard.)

    So your insights are very valuable and have meaning for Everyone who wants to own their own business. And if they help you blow off some steam so that you can keep being Awesome, then go for it. :)

  6. At least the Cadbury Mini-Eggs sound good...

    I also wish we didn't spend so much of our time doing e-mails, and we handle probably a tenth of what you do on a regular basis.

  7. ahaha, thanks ladies. I REALLY do want to write a book about owning your own small business, and ways to slowly sell your soul every single day! :)

  8. Miss Michelle,
    As a person who has been involved in the opening and continued success of three small businesses, I applaud your efforts ! I learned early on that, while working for the 'man' may sustain ones existance, it does nothing to enrich ones soul or start one towards financial independence. We all go through the pains and strife that accompany this life. The way in which one deals with those items is the true test of ones metal !
    Frank Keith

  9. I do the customer service thing at a hotel known for its service.

    I know what you mean about not enough hours, obsessing to the point of a nervous breakdown (I still haven't taken a full day off. Even with a mouth full of gauze, and enjoying the benefits of some fairly potent painkillers I monitored my inbox all day.) and general self-checks of, "How can I do this better?"

    The fact that you obsess about your clients, about the service they receive, about how it bothers you that you can't do everything your clients want when they want it, and, about how you can make their experience from start to finish better means you are damn good at the customer service game. Rock on!

    As one of those people with an email in your inbox - you take your time. I'm not going anywhere. I'll order when you're ready. And keep in mind that we're emailing you because we want a Damsel. Because of the reputation you have built. Because of the service you have always pushed to give. We're not going somewhere else that is sub-par that processes us like an assembly line!

  10. Great post - totally agree with you - and the way you describe things makes me laugh with recognition. My business is no where near as busy as yours and I'm actually quite relieved - it's a huge job you do and I wouldn't have a hope of coping as well as you.

    But do TRY and get some relaxation time - you both need and deserve it.

  11. I think you put your finger on the solution. You mentioned that 99.9% of your customers are awesome and it's just a few who make your life miserable. Well, imagine what would happen if you lost .1% of your sales? Nothing. You can totally afford to tell the difficult ones to stuff it. Seriously.

  12. The people who feel like it's ok to treat you like crap through emails are jerks because I'm willing to bet they wouldn't have the balls to do the same to your face. Just because it's the internet & they are essentially anonymous they lose any sort of manners they might have had.

    I think you're amazing & am so impressed by how much work you put into your craft & manage to maintain a marriage with young children.

    Keep being awesome & let the haters talk to the backside.

  13. I appreciate all that you do to give us ladies so much sexy and confidence! You and all your family are real special folk! I think it is very refreshing and human of you when you vent about these kinds of things. And as I am one day hoping to have my own small business... I am making mental post-it notes every time I read posts like this. :)

    As for your questioning emails.. do you have a FAQ page set up on the site? (I haven't looked recently so I don't remember if you did or not). If not maybe it would help curb some of the excess emails.

    It really makes me smile to see you watch Flapjack! It's one of my favorite cartoons! I wish it hadn't ended..

  14. Michelle, you and your family/minions do amazing work, make quality items, and genuinely care about your customers. I honestly can't say that for many other businesses today. I mean, whenever I email you a question, you and your team get back to me VERY quickly, which makes me feel important. :) You're also very friendly, helpful, and honest. Buying from you at your booth and meeting you (and having you lace up my corset) was one of the highlights of my Renaissance Faire expiriences. I'm constantly bragging about you to my corset-loving friends, and my 22nd birthday in May is going to be pirate/renaissance themed JUST so I can show off your gorgeous work (and how fantastic I look in them!) I wish some of your bosses would calm down and be a bit more empathetic; after all, you're busy making them a quality product. Big hugs and happy vibes to you and everyone else involved in your business. I think you're all doing magnificently and adore Damsel in this Dress. <3

  15. I can probably bet that most of your "bad customer complaints" come from the customer not knowing something or doing something correctly, and not you or your family. You do outrageous work and ALWAYS put out a wonderful product. They probably want you to work under a horrid time constraint ( which I would say is their own fault for not ordering in a decent amount of time) or them just being uninformed on the sewing process (but they think they totally know it all). We all know it's not you, it's them. And everyone has their bad/off days, but it's never nice to be rude- it won't get anyone anywhere. Oh, and your customer service skill are just fine! At least you know what you're talking about and aren't speaking to us all in an Indian accent (we all know and love that stereotype.) Love you- and keep up the spectacular work!

    ~Paula Delles

  16. Dear Damsel in Dis Dress,

    First of all, I love the way you've used the play on words for the name of your company. Excellent!

    During a three-year period I had a small, one person business. I was a barber, and I really enjoyed cutting hair.

    I learned that there are some people who are so unhappy with themselves, they make life miserable for everyone else. No matter WHAT you do, they are never happy. The hardest part of the situation was to learn to take them with a grain of salt, ignore the negativity they spill around and be thankful when they left the shop.

    The other thing I experienced was that loyal, kind customers outweigh the bad ones. You simply do your job and they are exceedingly appreciative, refer other customers and generally bring a smile to your face.

    You do amazing work, beautiful work. You inspire other creative people. Keep up the good work.

  17. I happened across your page on Etsy over the weekend. Absolutely beautiful, incredibly perfect corsets. I'm now frantically now trying to determine which food groups I can live without so that I can afford one of these magnificent things! Good luck with the customer service issues!

  18. Michelle,

    You are so pretty!!!! Feel better yet??


    PS. Hi Drew LOL

  19. I just wanted to send you a hug (and some ammo for the nasties) -- I met you at WWWest Con, bought a skirt that is wonderful... thought that you and your sister were delightful... and as soon as I get my act together, I'm buying another one!!!


  20. Personally, part of what I love about you and your company (aside from the BEST CORSETS EVER) is how real you are. You are a fantastically talented woman running an incredible business and selling all kinds of clothes that I can't wait to get my hands on.

    So thank you for being you! Thank you for sharing yourself with us, your customers, and letting us see into the mind of the brilliant woman who designs our dream corsets!

  21. elegant and fashionable collections that we ever seen so far and we recommend it to both classic and cocktail dress contemporary brides who are planning a princess look for the big day or a more sophisticated wedding dresses glamorous and yet delicate look. It all depends on the exact type of wedding you’re planning wedding gowns So we are convinced that among all the Pepe Botella White Moon wedding dress styles we’ve posted so far on wedding party dresses our website you will surely be able to find something adequate for your own wear and wedding designer wedding dress

  22. Michelle,

    You are so unique and amazing. You've been there answering my questions, every one of them over the past three years. I've got sale/standard items from you and custom items.

    You've been honest and when you've been needed to, you've been uplifting. You treat the customers who treat YOU with respect like a million bucks. You reward those who are loyal and kind.

    You've got a custom piece or two in your inventory right now of mine, waiting to be tweaked. And while I'm sure you were so frustrated over it, you've been nothing but supportive and proactive.

    We thank you, for giving us a product we are happy to spend our hard-earned money on.

    And I thank you for telling those mean girls to Bring. It. On.

    If you asked, you'd have an army of women, corseted and armed to the teeth, telling them to Bring. It. On... before you even get to.

  23. What's with the spam posts lately? Go away!

  24. But some things rarely change. The bride usually wears a beautiful, long white wedding dress. She traditionally wears "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blueFlower Girl Dresses