From the title you can tell this is going to be a customer service post.  Or in this case a lack of customer service.  3 weeks ago a customer received their multi-product order.  One of the mats – for whatever reason not quite relevant to this post – they wanted to return back.  I handed the job of organizing the return to an employee who in his job description is responsible for these types of activities.

What followed was a 3 week stand off between my employee and the customer over who would print the UPS sticker to send the mat back first.  On the one side was my employee, who was making the case he didn’t know what size package the customer was going to send back so couldn’t setup the UPS shipment.  On the other was the customer, who claimed he shouldn’t have to do anything except print out a packing label and drop off at the corner UPS store.  This is a literal digital “you do it.. no you do it… no you do it” school yard stand off.

In the meantime, I’m roped in by the customer on occasion as a way of going up and around the stubborn employee.  We can discuss if my management technique was right or wrong another time but my answer to the customer was that I would work with my employee to just get it done.  This morning my employee takes me aside to talk about the situation.  I’m trying to be supportive and empowering so my answer is, “just get this resolved.  I don’t care how you get it resolved or by what way but I don’t want any more phone calls or emails on the subject.  Fix it however you deem appropriate. Just get it done.”  In my head this says, I’m trusting you (employee) to resolve this issue.  Giving space for the employee to work, while giving direction – get the package back.

Now maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my direction or I gave my employee too much credit because his decision on how to fix this was to dig his heals in harder and tell the customer he wasn’t getting a refund until the customer sent back the product himself (again keep in mind we’re talking about who creates and prints out a packing label).  What followed was 15 back to back to back (15 times) phone calls from a New York area code, while I was playing with my daughter in the backyard at 6pm at night.  This means, this guy was calling at 9pm his time… pissed off.  He’s now demanding a complete refund and complete return.

A text conversation between my employee (e) and I at 6pm at night.

Joe: I just received 15 calls back to back to back from customer (c).

E: Keep ignoring.

E: He’s being a dick intentionally

Joe: He’s the customer.

E: Lol.

Joe: Lol is not the right response in this situation.

Text conversation continues:

E: You told me if I wanted to draw a hard line that’s fine.  I’m doing that. I’ve been very nice and respectful in the emails I have sent him… I have laid out exactly how we will facilitate the return… he doesn’t like the means in which we have chosen to do that. At this point he is not just a customer, he is simply a pain in the ass. He is one person and we are a company. I feel strongly enough not to let one person push us around when we have drawn a hard line.

Joe: Your off the account. I’ll take care of it tonight.

How did I take care of it? Emailed the customer first:


I have removed Employee from your account.  I am incredibly sorry for his unprofessionalism and disrespect.  I will personally take care of everything tonight.  Can you confirm that you would like a full return or if I can arrange the AirRamp return tonight is that satisfactory? I am unable to return your phone calls until later this evening – which I absolutely will.

Again my sincerest apology for the previous interactions.

Called the customer after my kid was put to bed – 10pm his time – and proceeded to grovel, apologies, and most importantly of all kiss major ass. Customer crisis averted.

There are so many ways to take this experience but the one that I want to hone in on is the employee’s stance and reaction.  His actions in no way affect him.  They affect the company’s reputation but he’s not the company. I’m the company.  As such he will never have as much on the line as I do.  He’s playing a game of Russian Roulette except when it’s his turn instead of pointing the gun at his head, he’s pointing it at mine.  I read through several of my past posts and time and time again the direct line between me – the owner – and my business is pointed out.  No one is going to care as much as I do.  No one has as much on the line as I do.  No one…

This ultimate sense of responsibility is emotionally crippling. Damn it – I’m tired.

His belief that the company should dictate down to the customer is really disconcerting and probably speaks to a larger problem with our company culture… our company of 3.  I’m left trying to figure out if I have contributed in any way to a company superiority complex. Possibly too much cooler talk with the employee?

Suffice it to say, owner saves the day. Employee continues to get paycheck. And the customer continues to be always right.