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I'm writing this at the end of the worst week in the history of my ecommerce adventure ever. To be honest I just feel like packing it all in. I really don't want to because the money is great, but certain factors are really causing me grief.
Impatient customers just about top the bill. If someone places an order on friday night at about 9:00pm, how on earth can they expect it monday? I specify on the website that orders placed over the weekend (i.e 5:30 friday to monday morning) will be posted on monday first class. So when I get a rant on monday morning that they haven't received their item, I send them a nice reply stating that the order will be dispatched today (monday) for tomorrow, and send them a link to the delivery times page, just to back up my point. I receive a reply back, telling me I'm rude, immature, unhelpful and just trying to force people to part with money by pushing promises I can't deliver.
That't not all though, I have had more faulty items back this week than ever, and I can't understand why. Actually I can, Certain widgets require a specific action before they will operate (pulling out a tab to connect a circuit for example). I ask them if they have done this in an e-mail, the reply "Yes - do you think I'm stupid". I get the item back. Tab still in. I e-mail them, the reply "how on eath did I know what tab you were talking about?. All my widgets come with detailed instructions.
Then, my supplier was out of stock of my best selling widget, and a back order of products was built up. Suffice to say that people were moaning within 48 hours, even though I had clearly indicated to allow a week for delivery in big black letters. I got these widgets in today and they are in a big box in my bedroom and the way I'm feeling I just cant be bothered to open it up and umload them. I know that sounds bad, but I'm tired, run down and short on sleep due to this muggy weather (I can never sleep with in the hot).
And the Icing on the cake is that somebody reported me to trading standards. On wednesay, I open the door to 2 men who usher me in to my house and sit me down. Apparently somebody bought a widget fom me based on the strength of a picture. I say on the website, "Items may vary slightly from the pictures shown".
I keep non-OEM replacement Widgets, but the picture does show an original manufacturers product. However next to the picture in bold lettrs I have written - "Please note this Item designed to replace the widget shown, and IS NOT an Original Manufactures product". One or 2 people get confused and ask for a refund - which I give them, no questions asked, I just say 'please can you return the battery to me' - and usually just give a refund the next day, whether I have recievd it or not, as i know its in the post.
However for some reason, somebody reported me to trading standards because of this. To be honest, it didnt look as though they really gave a rats, just said "change the pictures as some people are pretty dumb and wouldn't notice the big bold writing if it slithered out of their computer screen and started strangling them".
I don't know who reported me, someone that made the mistake said I should change the pictures as soon as possible. I have been planning to by the way, but It's hard work trying to run a website and work full time. (also this is a sub five pound non original widget, people are selling fake originals for about £2 on ebay - i know they are fake, my supplier has given me notes on how to spot fakes)
ANyway thats my rant over. Basicaly I'm fed up with it all. I try and make an honest living and other people are doing their best (intentionally or not) to ruin it for me. Sorry if my attitude stinks a bit, but I'm really tired, and run down. I'm going to go and run a hot bath and have a long hard soak, but I would appreciate your thoughts. Anyone else think its not worth it or have similar experiences?
If that's not realistic, I would say it's only worth it if you can enjoy it. Life's too short. Either work on developing a wider comfort zone within yourself, or move on to something that isn't so stressful.
Among these I've found the single most important thing is time. All the money in the world is worthless if you can't take a break from working long enough to enjoy it, or are too frustrated with the extra stress and time that work takes up. I don't know if you have any kids, but some day you're going to die and you really have to ask yourself how you want them to remember you. The business man who was always stressed out trying to earn a buck, or the Dad that had the time to play ball in the yard or go fishing or whatever outdoor activity that interests you?
Take a vacation before you make any decisions. You need some time away from the business - maybe a friend or family member can run things for a little while. I would say at least a long weekend, but preferably a week. You need to not think about work at all. Being outside helps the most, so do something like hiking or rent a boat for the weekend if you don't own one.
When you come back, you may find that things really aren't so bad and that you just had a bad week. Or you may find that it's not worth the extra money you're making from it. Either way, don't make any decisions before you take a break from the business for a little while. You also want to think about long-term growth - if this isn't what you want to be doing in 5 years, why even bother doing it now?
Most successfull business owners have been where you are now. Some of them gave up on a crappy business and started a better one. Others pushed through the bad times and eventually came out on top. It's up to you to figure out which you need to do.
Thanks for the replies. I'm feeling a bit better now I have to say.
Webwomen - I have been enjoying it, especially the extra freedom the money brings (again, it boils down to that, but beeing bale to go clubbing on a saturday night, get a couple of rounds in, and take the over priced taxi home and not have to worry)
DigitalV - Glad you mentioned a holiday. I live in the UK but am taking 4 weeks out from everything in Sepetember - I'm heading Stateside with a couple of mates to tour the country a bit. America has always looked like such a gret place to visit, so I'm glad I can go. Also I don't have any kids to worry about, as I'm only 19. I see what you mean about time though. When I come back from this trip, I think I'm going to hgave to give up my job and run the business full time. This way, I have more time in the evenings to go out and ENJOY myself, and less time to worry.
Send an e-mail in response to each order, but have it sent with a From: address that looks like 'firstname.lastname@example.org' where acme is you domain.
Word the e-mail (use a template, say) such that it looks like it was auto-generated by a web application, but has custom times for the particular given order delivery, like this:
Thank you for your order.
Our team are processing your order and despatch is currently sheduled before:
>> Wednesday 8/8/04 5:pm Eastern
You could expect delivery: blah blah
Thank you again for your business, if you have any queries ...blah,,blah
The Acme Team
AND at the very bottom include this:
Do NOT reply to this auto-generated e-mail, if you wish to contact us, use the following address; email@example.com
To my mind, this sort of e-mail may well:
a) indicate that the 'system' has your order under full control, (and can't be interfered with!) and,
b) will not encourage a reply from them like an e-mail from a 'human' would.
Maybe you should put in red box with two check boxes
- yes I agree
- no I don't agree
with the conditions before they can order :)
I've no idea of the validity of this, but I rather like it:
Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments [apa.org]
I've told myself that I'll email the link someday, if I get a customer who is trully bad enough to justify it. Haven't had to yet :)
On a more serious note, I would definately send order confirmation emails quoting a generous timescale. Maybe 3 - 5 working days for 1st class post. That way a lot of people will get their goods early (and love you for it), most will get them when you said, and the few who complain will be the one's with genuine problems. Under promise and over deliver works in my experience.
I am looking into implementing an inventory system that uses barcode scanners to manage my inventory. I am also working on a shipping management system that will simplify the shipping process, and hopefully minimize human error.
I just can't trust my employees running the business. They make far too many mistakes for me to leave for a whole week.
I am looking into implementing an inventory system that uses barcode scanners to manage my inventory. I am also working on a shipping management system that will simplify the shipping process, and hopefully minimize human error
If you have the cash to spare, look into EVEREST. I normally prefer to write my own custom solutions to whatever I happen to be doing, but writing a system that would even come close to Everest would take years - they've thought of everything.
Yeah sounds like a good idea, how about integrating a system into your site that aloows the customer to check on the order situ.
I built just a system for my site. It gives them a place to click to Inquire about the current status, but the message that gets sent from that click is a custom message that I created. There's no place to allow 'venting' :)
If the item has shipped, it shows them the tracking number and provides the correct shippers form to help track the delivery.
All in all, it's helped cut down a bit on phone calls (for another thread, but the phone is man's worst invention ever). It also gives the appearance that we're professional and on-top-it, neither of which could be said to be true on most days...
Mr Bo Jangles provided some good tips, so did digitalv. I 'dropped out' of the working world 5 years ago, burnt out and dissolusioned. I'm much happier (overall) these days. While I don't recommend the dropping-out part, what I've found is more than enough time to smell the roses these days, and that gives me much pleasure. And, I've started making the boss go fishing, as much to get him out of my hair as to make sure he spends some time away from this place too.
chodges84, you're still young. There's plenty of time to work your rear off, but as you get older you'll find less time (and more demands on your time) to do some of the things you want to do. Just wait until your site starts providing the sort of income that will free you from the 9 to 5 routine, then you'll really be busy.
I do you hope you stick with it. But be nice to yourself, everyday. An hour in the garden, or eating a bowl of ice cream, or whatever you fancy - uninterrupted by phone calls or e-mails or anything that remotely resembles work. Peace of mind is priceless and can't be bought on the web.
first of all I must say that I feel a bit sorry for you, I hope that everything will be ok.
There will always be customers ranting, no matter how well you perform some people will never be satisfied, they wouldn't even be satisfied if you gave them the stuff for free.
Also there will always be customers never ever reading the instructions, and also people reporting you to the trading standards.
You might need a vacation, try finding someone to fill in for you a bit and take a vacation, figure out if you want to keep the business or not. Everyone needs to charge their batteries in someway.
Hope it will work out!
Wow - thanks for all the replies. I have to say, that since the first post, things are definately on the up for me. Although I am getting a strange number of 'Item not delivered' e-mails all from people who ordered last monday. It looks like maybe a whole batch has gone astray.
Derekwong - when I travel across to America my family are going to run the site. I'm getting them clued up and am writing a comprehensive manual on how to do things. My Sister's already pretty competent (shes only 14 though)
ytswy - Interesting link, I'll bear that one in mind. To be fair though, I do get nice comments as well, which makes it more worthwhile. It's not all negatives.
Raymond - do you have an 'under manager' or snything, he could maybe give you a rest for a long wekkend or so. Also how many employees do you have, if you don't mind me asking?
Grandpa - I am going to stick with it. I'll be looking at doing it full time sooner or later, but I really enjoy my day job, but I suppose if I ever want to expand the business, I will need to quit sometime.
shigamoto - named after a famous japanese game designer?
"Everyone needs to charge their batteries in someway."
lol - that's how all the problems start in the first place, people need to charge their batteries. (I suppose I'm the only one that will get that).
Thanks a lot again guys, it's great to have been able to get it all off my chest to such an understanding bunch.
But at least you are making money. My site loses money.
I would say just hire someone to do customer service, if that is a possibility. It is just too stressful dealing with morons all day.
We get this all the time. It is amazing that people can not figure that out for themselves. I would not even put anymore effort into this problem than the polite email that you are sending out already. If people are going to ask stupid questions it is not your/our fault.