Marshall - 4:41 am on Jan 3, 2012 (gmt 0)
The one e-commerce site I manage receives a lot of emails, contact us forms, and phone calls regarding products. It never fails that when this client receives a complaint, it has nothing to do with them. in fact, to my knowledge, in 12 years of business, this client itself never received a complaint.
Earlier, an email was received stating "I bought your product,..." and the individual went on to complain about it. The response was simply "we do not sell that product, please contact the seller or manufacturer." Of course, you never hear a "thank you for your help."
The other time is when people cannot find a product and email asking "do you have..." or "do you know where I can get..." My client always does her best to locate the product and inform the person where he/she can get it. You would think good p.r. However, based on all the emails I have seen, less than 1% actually write back and thank her for her help. And, to my knowledge, these people do not shop on her site in the future despite the fact she has demonstrated great customer service.
On the other hand, when she helps a paying customer, over 99% write and say thank you and return to shop again.
Bottom line question: Is it really worth taking the time to help people who are not customers? I believe it is important to respond to people who complain, especially when they are in error as to whom they bought the product from, but all of this is time consuming and it seems to me the return on the investment is not worth more than some boilerplate response.