Sunday, May 22, 2011


Help Wanted:
By Heather Curlee Novak with Lee Burdorf, Guest Blogger

My friend Lee sent me this story about his experience with Borders Books online:

I ordered a book online from I feel badly about their closing the store here and having problems. So, I thought I would give them some business.
When you order things online you usually get an instant confirmation by email. When I hadn't received the email confirmation after several hours, I decided to call Borders to see if there was a problem. After sifting through several recorded messages, I got a live human. But he obviously was in a foreign country, probably India.* I could barely understand him and it took forever to explain to him my problem. I was on the phone with him for an agonizing 20- to 30 minutes and he was still unable to find my order. Finally, I asked if I could speak to his Supervisor. A woman came on the line and told me they had my order but for some reason it hadn't been processed yet.

I decided to be patient and wait 24 hours and see what happened. After 24 hours, I still hadn't received any confirmation so I called again. Again, I got a foreigner, this time a woman. Again, it was almost impossible to understand her and it took her about 15 minutes to find my order. Finally, I just told her to cancel the order and she said she would.

I then ordered the book from and the book arrived in the mail a few days later. The next day, the same book arrived from Borders. I have been charged twice for the book despite asking for the order to be canceled. There was no way I was going through the India phone calls again, so I emailed them and basically wrote the same story I just recounted here. It's been three days now and I have received no reply.

It's only 18 dollars and I think it's worth that not to have to deal with them again. But I will never order anything from Borders again and I suppose it is justice that they're going out of business with service like this.

NOTE: Lee sent me an email the next day. "They may have spoiled the whole thing. They sent me an email with a form to take to FedEx to return the book and get my money back."

Ordering online can be fabulously expedient or brain numbingly frustrating depending on the situation. Lee's second email that "they may have spoiled the whole (customer service report) thing" by finally taking care of the problem is inaccurate. They took care of the problem too late and the onus is still on him as the customer to fix their problem. Frankly I see the most customer friendly response is for them to tell him to keep the book, credit his account and send him a gorgeous credit to try them again for something in the future. That would likely impress him into trying them again.

From a business standpoint, his last sentence is very telling. "It's only 18 dollars and I think it's worth that not to have to deal with them again." Not only is he annoyed, but he thinks it is valuable enough to NEVER deal with them again he is close to HAPPY TO PAY to GET RID OF THEM!

Business owners beware, most of your disgruntled customers will not only never return, but they will tell everyone they know at the same time how unhappy they are--never breathing a word to you. In order to offer excellent customer service a business must be on the offensive. They must look for opportunities to seduce and woo all customers--especially those who are unhappy with any step in the process.

* I think it is important to note something about comments in this blog about call centers in foreign countries, particularly India. These comments are NOT intended to belittle the people of India or anyone for whom English is a second (or third or fourth) language. It is a known method in business to save dollars though overseas call centers. This unfortunately often leads to a frustrating and complicated communication process which in turn increases customer dissatisfaction with the experience.

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