Saturday, February 27, 2010

Refund ??? Refund ???

Every once in awhile I have had to cut the cord with a customer ( or them with me..). I used to think that maybe this person who ordered a bike frame from me might be mentally unsound or just playing some sort of sick control game with me and possibly other craftspeople types . That's what I thought, until recently. A client/builder relationship is not unlike a friendship-trust is a major part of the relationship. The client must trust that the builder will do his or her utmost to satisfy what the customer ordered. Conversely , the builder must trust that the customer is being clear in what they are requesting and is acting in good faith, i.e. not going to flake on payment when the frame is completed. Both parties are taking a bit of a leap of faith-if either is unsure of the other, that is when the whole exchange can go south. So here it is, years since my last unfortunate aborted transaction with a clearly displeased customer......suddenly it hit me: Maybe this person was not insane...maybe they really weren't playing any kind of sick control game at all. Perhaps the issue with this customer is that they didn't trust me, the builder. Even though it has been a long time coming, this realization about trust ..but now I know why I couldn't satisfy them and also I know why I came away comletely insulted. I would like to think that I, like most of my framebuilding brethren do our utmost to make the customer happy. I also need to point out that when some of us do make an error we do all that we can to rectify the mistake in a timely fashion . While most of us do not advertise that we fix our flub-ups quickly , I believe it is an unspoken code that customer service is what sets us apart from larger companies and/or unethical practitioners of bicycle frame construction ( Names witheld to protect the cheeky bastards ) . Sooo.....here I am, thinking I'm going to build this customer the best frame they ever had and whammo.......the customer isn't happy, sometimes before I have even lit the torch ! I recently sent a deposit back to a customer who I spent quite a bit of time with in person and on the phone-all the time I was talking to this person I got the feeling that he/she was having a terribly hard time commiting to an order or even a design for the frame. I always tell people who appear this indecisive that perhaps they should not order a frame until they know exactly what they want . Now I know that indecision on the part of this customer was only a symptom of the greater issue: This person didn't trust me. Even though the customer clearly did not trust my ability to build what they want in the time they had envisioned , I recieved a deposit from the customer, albeit about three months later than I was told I would. In that three months I had accumulated about thirty orders , so the three and one-half month waiting time I had qouted the customer was out of the question. I phoned and left the customer a message on voicemail that now the frame would not be ready for perhaps four to five months. I gave the customer two weeks to reply as to weather this was acceptable ( if not I would send the deposit check back ) and then deposited the check. In a couple of days the customer called me and said that the check had cleared but that he hadn't given me the o.k. on the additional waiting time. I waited for another couple of weeks and then the custome called to have me refund the deposit, which I did immediately. I also sent back all the fit info so that it could be put to use by the other builder who would now be building the frame that was no longer my responsability. I was seriously scratching my head over this whole episode when it dawned on me that the indecision, the long delay in sending the deposit and the delay in getting back to me with the final solution were the red flags of mistrust on the part of the customer. I can understand that it is a big leap of faith to order a frame from someone you might not know personally but people do it every day . What I don't understand is why someone who clearly didn't trust me sent me money ..........it makes no sense . I'm not a mental health professional and some would say that I could benefit from a little analysis myself - this stuff is beyond me . I close with this : To all those untrusting individuals I say, go ahead -don't trust me.....pass me up as your potential builder, please ! Just remember that unless you are building the damn frame yourself you will indeed have to suck it up and trust somebody . Good night and good luck.

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