Suppliers and customer service – calling @queenofshops!

by

I’m being particularly provocative, aggressive and dramatic with that headline and for good reason. As the retailer of the supplier’s goods, the egoist within is wont to make me say – without me you wouldn’t be earning a living, without me you’d have no business, without my marketing of your product you’d not have a pot to piss in.

Of course the reverse is true – without their product I would equally have none of the above. And, of course, when I refer to me I do mean any fellow retailer trying to earn a crust, I mean me and my ilk.

But I’ve had a gutful. I’m pissed off, there’s no way I can mix my words on this matter. Last week I’d been at my second trade fair for this year and wasn’t exactly in the mood – for the ongoing reason that there still exists a huge amount of ignorance surrounding online retail from the suppliers’ side.

So to get home to the office at 7pm and find a very brusque email from one of my suppliers asking me to call them to discuss what I’m going to do about payment of my outstanding invoice was really the cherry on my off-bepissed cake.

Here’s the tale:

Last year in January I placed an order for a new range of mugs due out around Easter and for delivery to newroomsonline in May.

(Presumably my preferred delivery date was noted?)

In June they still had not arrived. So, again, at a trade fair I dropped in at their stand and asked if there was a problem. A short apology re the delay explained that there had been a few hiccups in the manufacture but they were on their way.

(Presumably my concern was noted at the time?)

By September I was at another fair and called on their stand to say they had still not arrived…oh yes there had been a few problems with that line. I made the point of asking if by this stage they would ever think of still delivering them so late in the day, as this would now seriously stuff up my cashflow given the additional Xmas stock now starting to land in. I didn’t want the order any more.

No, they would NEVER do that. Any order which had been so delayed would always demand a call to the retailer first to see if the goods were still required. I was not to worry because they would always call first.

(Presumably this conversation would have been noted?)

The first week in October arrived and I’d been out of my office all day. A card on the mat told me Interlink had tried to deliver. The following morning I called them and drove 10 miles there and 10 miles back to their depot in Leyland to collect a box. The box was the order I’d no longer wanted.

I called the supplier, explained the situation and was told that I could have simply left the box in Leyland (yeah cos that’s what I really needed to hear at that point). I said I would be quite happy to keep the goods but that they were five months late, so if I did keep them it was on the understanding that they wouldn’t be paid for, for another five months, because my predicted cashflow had not accounted for this event.

She responded as I knew she would, that they did not accept that kind of a suggestion and that if the result was that I no longer wanted the goods they would arrange for the courier to collect.

The courier collected.

This was all done and dusted by 12.10.10.

At some point before Christmas I received a call saying my invoice was overdue. I told them that the order in question had been collected by them as it was too late to be of any use to my Christmas trade and the caller politely apologised and put the phone down.

Two weeks ago I received a call saying there was an outstanding amount on my account. I asked what this was for and was told an order from September. But I’ve not had an order from you since February 2010. What was on the order….and of course it was, once again, the returned order.

I said that the order had been returned to them. She asked if I had any paperwork to support this. I said I’d look into what I had and she said she’d look into what she had.

The brusque email I received was worded short (and sweet?) as follows:

Afternoon

We have an outstanding invoice on your account for £166.94  from 28/09/11 which I understand you state was returned to us.

My colleague has looked in to this and a collection as arranged but states that there was nothing to collect, see below screen print. Can you contact me to discuss further or forward payment of this outstanding invoice as soon as possible.

Regards

There was no Dear Sally….that was the first thing to really rile me. The second thing is that screen print to which she refers just has a date, a consignment number and the fact that it was a delivery followed by a collection from the Preston & Blackpool branch…there’s no evidence that anything was for me. It didn’t say newroomsonline anywhere, there was no delivery address shown, no postcode, quite frankly it could have been for Debenhams in the city centre – how it was of any use to me I don’t know. There wasn’t even a record of my having signed for the original box – and yet I am to assume this is meant as proof that I am what? Lying? Stealing? Because that is how I felt.  I STATED …..bit like saying I claimed……bit like inferring that I was lying or am I just too sensitive?

I was definitely being accused of something.

So let’s see.

1. They make no note of any of the conversations which have taken place at the trade fairs.

2. They make no note of any customer phone calls relating to orders.

3. They make no valid note of any courier services.

4. They make no note of any follow up calls relating to statement letters.

5. They have seemingly no handle of the amount of stock going out or coming back into their warehouse.

HELLO – WOULD SOMEONE LIKE TO SELL THEM A CRM OR STOCK CONTROL SYSTEM?????????

So the onus was upon me to prove my innocence as opposed to their being able to prove my ‘guilt’.

I immediately called my good friend @designconscious whose sound business advice and level headedness is second to none. My position was rather bleak as every exchange I’d had had been by phone or face to face. I had no written evidence at all. It was looking like I couldn’t prove my position other than to say I’ve never had those items on my website – why would I order a stock and then not even try to sell it?

As we spoke and she managed to stop my pottymouthed tirade, the gods shone down on me and I found the consignment note I’d signed upon their collection.

So I called them. To be fair the credit controller had read my email asking her to call Interlink again, and did start the conversation by apologising for the situation….even though at that point she had no idea I’d found the document. I let her talk and then said well actually she had no need to call Interlink because I’d found the consignment note. She was grateful. She put the phone down saying she would call Interlink and then call me back. She did and the matter was now closed.

She has forwarded a notice to me in black and white that the matter is resolved, that I am absolved, that I am not the petty criminal I was made to feel, that the current climate is hard for everyone, that she sympathises that I must lose weight and commerical anxieties understandably make us want to reach for the Hendrick’s…..sorry no, she didn’t say that at all…well apart from the first bit.I have an email confirming I owe them nothing and a screen grab of Interlink’s consignment note also confirming my side of the facts.

But when this all took place on Friday it wrecked the whole day. It pre-occupied me and as a result I got nothing done.

I strive to give my customers a great experience, and if something goes wrong I ALWAYS assume that it’s my mistake first and foremost. I appreciate their not buying from Amazon, a huge chain or my competition. They enjoy sufficiently massive trade as to be able to take advantage of the economies of scale that afford their customer base free delivery – I’m simply too small a company as yet to offer that. So I don’t take it lightly when people shop with me – I’d like to think that come the day I will never take it lightly.

In turn I naively assume that my suppliers also don’t take it lightly when I choose to spend my money with them and not someone else.

Evidently not.

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