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Dealing with Vague or Stupid Customer Service Questions

 5:57 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I run a "the complete guide to blue widgets" style content site. Approx 100 pages on blue widgets.

I swear to god about twice a week I get emails some completely ridiculous email like this (This is an actual email).

Dear sir,
Am interested in <blue widgets>, kindly send me information.

I get about 20 questions a week and always spend time to write a detailed (500-1000 words) responce (which I then turn into an article. But there is no way to answer this guy in an email, the entire SITE is information... sheeesh.



 7:50 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Perhaps simply reply with:

Blue widgets come in various shades of blue including azure, cyan, turquoise, aquamarine, teal, steel, powder, navy.

Which particular shade are you interested in?

If that's not the structure of widgets then perhaps ask them if they are interested in the history, culture, geography (insert classification here) of blue widgets.

Do you sell blue widgets? If so, maybe send them (or have ready to send) a sample of blue widgets with indicative pricing.

Some people do not seem to fully grasp the idea of navigating around a site - they do a search - and there it is.... then they do another search...


 8:11 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

All the time, dude.

We are travel related and get so many of these vague emails like :

" Dear Monkscuba,

We are interested in visiting your location, please send a quote.

PS I couldn't be bothered to look through your web site for information, I prefer to waste your time with this deliberately vague request"

No mention of WHEN, how many people, how long they stay, what activities they want to do etc..

I have now made a draft reply to such mails, very polite and with links to the various sections on our web site where the information can be found. I just tweak the draft mail to suit the query. I got a bit tired of writing these replies again and again, so the draft is good. It means I can write back very quickly and politely.

Before I did this, my replies were sometimes a bit terse and direct if I was in a bad mood or busy.


 10:00 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

How about the ones who say

Please cancel my order.

No Name, No order ID, nothing. I think they think we are mind readers.


 10:42 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Or for that matter, those who go and pay online without telling us what for, or without first confirming that what they want is actually available...

Well, the thing is to always be polite when you write back to such people. I do realise that maybe they HAVEN'T seen our web site at all, maybe got the email address from somewhere else, like a directory. Or maybe they are just very busy and very rich and may end up as a very good customer if you take time to explain everything to them.

Take a deep breath before answering such emails!


 11:06 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

My favourites ( no not really ) are the ones I get on one of my sites that say "please give your exact address so we can stop by and discuss a quote" ..

I am in Europe ..it says so very clearly on the site in question ..

These guys are always in the states!

Yes the site is in English and in French ..but it does say in both languages where I am!

Thus ..inspite of what most members say about sites full of "good fast loading text info" being the "ideal" with only a few of those "horrible slow image" things ..

I wonder ..

How many of the average surfers can actually read?!


 12:25 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yep I dealt with this Ole granny late last year it was her first ever purchase on the web for her grandsons xmas present.

Anyhow despite the site telling you the delay in delivery etc etc etc She still emailed me two days later moaning about the non delivery and how she knew she couldnt trust this web thing blah blah blah.

Reply, time passes. get another email from her, She's over the moon that the games have arrived 'such good condition from so far away'! I.e UK - USA. Made me laugh and laugh.


 3:03 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I had one a few weeks ago: "Do you have Widget1 in stock?". I replied stating the stock level, delivery timescales, link to the page, the price and all the relevant information needed to make a purchase. He responded nastily: "I wanted to know if they were in stock NOT the price."

Last week I got another enquiry from a different person: "Do you have widget2 in stock?". I replied that we did. He replied "This is urgent...what price?"

Shows that you can't win.


 3:58 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

It would be different if I was selling them something.

Lets pretend my topic is Gardening. (It is a very broad topic)

He is basically asking for my to send him information on gardening.

The same thing happens on a travel forum I moderate.

People sometimes come on and ask the stupidest questions:

I am leaving to the UK in 2 days, please give me places to do, things to do, the cheapest way to do everything, fast ways to make money, and places with cheap beer. Pleas email it to me at...

The forum is a great community and (like WebmasterWorld) the questions are almost always anwered by some kind soul. But I refuse to, why? Just because he is a moron who refuses to do any work on the subject himself doesnt mean I have to write a 2,000 word responce to his stupid questions.


 5:32 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I get emails all the time on services or products I am selling saying the same thing "please send me more information on your widgets." Even though I have multi-pages of great easy to read and understand information on my widgets including a detailed FAQ, and nothing at all is being held back or non-disclosed, they still often arrive in my inbox.

Also get emails saying "how do I order" even though it say's "Click-Here to order" in large bold face type and also clickable-graphics all over the place. Funny thing is when I reply it seems like they rarely place the order?

In addition we occasionally get emails saying they want their order changed, cancelled or whatever but only give their first name (i.e. Thanks, John) with no order id, order date, no address, not even a city or state.

On my websites which are not selling anything, just a free knowledge type of information site (with Adsense running) I often get people saying "please send me all the details on blah blah blah" even though it is something not covered in the website and would require hours of research and work in getting the data and sending it to them, all for free!

What idiots they are and how frustrating it is. The public seems so stupid (and getting worse) not sure how much more of this we can take! Is it any wonder all 19 of the 9-11 hijackers were 100% successful 3-yrs ago today?

[edited by: trader at 6:01 pm (utc) on Sep. 11, 2004]


 5:55 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

How about the ones who say

Please cancel my order.

No Name, No order ID, nothing. I think they think we are mind readers.

With that kind of customers, it wouldn't even help if you were mind readers.
if you know what I mean...



 6:00 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have a travel related site that get tons of "lazy query" emails.

Dear site - I have looked all over the internet and cannot find the airport code

my reply: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q=airport+code+city+name - my site is #1.

What is the weather like during $month?

my reply: www.mysite.com/weather/month.html

I would like information about $X (hotels, real estate, restaurants... you name it).

my reply: Thank you for your query. We actually have all this information already on our website in this section (URL). I apologize that you were unable to find it, which is strange as our website has won numerous awards for design and many, many compliments for ease of use, etc. However, I would like to personally express my gratitude for bringing this problem to my attention.

Please send me the printed version of your webpage.

my reply: Please use the print command - the easiest way to do this is press [ctrl] p.

My computer says that I cannot do this, because I don't have a printer. Please send this information to $street, $city, $state.

my reply: I have just discovered that there is a Kinko's in your area ($street address). They will print out the entire site for you for a modest fee. We recommend doing this, as we would have to charge you nearly $30 US dollars to ship the print outs from $country.


 7:42 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I can feel traders frustation about people wanting you to research, write, organize, and email them whole slabs of information all for nothing.

And (as someone who has done this many times), THEY WILL NEVER SAY THANK YOU!


 7:53 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

This thread caught my eye, because I had an email recently which was almost literally identical to the sample given in the first post... scary...



 7:56 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

My favorites are the ones who ask for a price on something when the page has big bold yellow font saying it isn't for sale! And, especially, the ones who say they have looked all over the page for a price ... duh! :o

I always write back courteously even though it pains me severly to keep my fingers talking nice. :)


 8:12 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I had a real piece of work last week.

She emailed me about 10 questions about are services and openly admitted that she was asking because she was building her own site.

I was courteous and replied to her with a detailed response. She never said thank-you.

Then a week later I get an email from her that says to the effect (I won’t quote cause that is against the TOS)


Can you imagine?

The DIP :-)


 10:19 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the biggest problem that we have to day is teh statement 'The customer is always right' try getting out from under it.


 10:43 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


If you know the address of the site she was building, I'd check it out for your content. The bit of her email you paraphrased above sounds a lot like a newbie's reaction to finding that the webpage they copied still has mailto links to the site they copied it from...



 12:17 am on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Do you have an onsite search and/or FAQ on your site, that may eliminate alot of "stupid" questions. On the bigger website you'll see that "contact us" actually takes you through a search or faq, then directs you to a contact form.


 12:24 am on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

My favorite is customers who use multiple email addy's.
They use one for a product request, another for their PayPal payment and a third to send the information :`)
They usually use a forth to complain about not getting the inforamtion the request ( sent to the first email address weeks earlier)


 12:52 am on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

The best thing you can do in my experience is to have some of the stock answers to vague questions. I get at least one e-mail a week saying "Wow your (nice web service we offer) is the best I've ever seen, what (hardware/software) do you use?".

A while ago I put together a nice friendly standard response and it really simplifies things. They get the helpful answer they're looking for with minimal effort from my part. It also allows me to spend more time answering the 1% of them that have follow up questions.

There will be people that are difficult to communicate with, who won't understand your carefully crafted explanations and there's pretty much nothing you can do about that. All you can do is be patient, try your best and be patient some more.


 1:11 am on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)


I really am a DIP. I can't believe I didn't think of that myself. It wouldn't be the first time.

Good lord somebody slap me!

Shannon Moore

 4:52 pm on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I, too, have a set of stock replies I've collected over time to answer the most common questions. Oddly enough, the vaguest and silliest emails tend to come to my content only site. People wanting me to "send all information you have on X, Y, and Z because I'm leaving to X, Y, and Z in 5 days and need to know what I can do there." Uhm, it's on the site. If it's not on my site, I have links to related sites that have the information they seek.

Scariest of all, they often include their home address, full name and phone number. They seriously need a class in Internet 101 if they're sending that info to every Tom, Dick and Susan who has a website online!

Most of my email templates link to either a section of my content site's FAQ, a search in my site's forums or the results of a Google search, complete with an explanation of what search terms were used.

Funniest emails are from kids doing school reports. I have ONE page on my content site about a reptile found throughout N. America. That one page, each school semester, generates emails from kids wanting to know all manner of things about the reptile -- what does it eat, why is theirs sickly in its tiny terrarium in their bedroom, can I tell them what sex theirs is (no photos attached, though that wouldn't help me even if they were).

Fun stuff. They all get sent to Google. Or a page to buy a book on the subject (via Amazon associates).

As much as the emails are frustrating and time-consuming at times, however, for a content only site they're a goldmine of opportunity. For example, if I got with the program, I'd have a whole section of my site dedicated to that reptile instead of a single page. It's on my TO DO list, in fact.


 7:54 pm on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm always surprised at some of the questions I get, and the way some people will act as though you are their tutor, or some kind of servant.

However, dumb questions are often telling you something. "I can't find X" (when it's on the nav of every page) suggests that X could be made more prominent, or described better, or mentioned more often. There will always be a few people who are hopelessly lazy or inconsiderate, and there's no helping them. But often your navigation and site structure isn't as clear as you like to think it is.


 12:59 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm with you Rosalind - For each inexperienced user that sends an email there are probably many more that have not worked out that you need to press the "submit" button in order to actually send the question.

The main thing this tells me is that they are not very experienced with the web and maybe I should cater for this better (there is a limit of course).

I guess it depends on what business you're in and how you make your money.

If you (or your client) provide a face to face service on time and materials, these so called "DIPs" can turn out to be your best clients.


 1:22 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Boy I could contribute alot to an alternative thread about stupid companies who think they are right and don't care about their customers!

Sometimes (often?) the "customer dis-service rep" is rude, insulting, and honestly believes their computer screen/database is factual when a customer reports otherwise.

Okay.. you're right. You be a company and be right, and we'll be the customers and be wrong. And then when you don't have any customers left, will you still be a company?

The customer is always right. It has to be that way. If you are a company and you think the customer is wrong, you need some lessons on diplomacy and persuasion. the customer is not wrong; the customer is frustrated and annoyed.


 1:40 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

My favorite customer email is "How do I (blah) on your website?" to which my answer is inevitably "Go to our homepage and click '(blah)'"

It's at the top of the page in big letters. This happens about once a day. The link is very prominent, shows up on every page, and at least 5 times on the homepage.


 1:46 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's at the top of the page in big letters

This is not pointed at you zomega42 because I have no idea about your sites, but it amazes me how many sites these days have menus that only display in Internet Explorer.

Even some major SEM companies have menues that only display in IE. ;)


 2:21 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

How about the customer who doesn't feel comfortable in placing an order on a sercure server so they email you their order including their CC number.


 3:14 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use a really cool ticket managing system that is integrated into our FAQ. When someone submits a question, it displays a list of a couple answers from the knowledge base, based on keyword matching in their question. The program then asks the user if any of the answers solve their problem, if not - press submit again. Its a pretty neat piece of software, if anyone is interested - I can send you the company's url via PM. I get no kickbacks by the way.

This 37 message thread spans 2 pages: 37 ( [1] 2 > >
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