It’s Just Business! (or is it something else?)

May 10 2006

Despite the fact that my company has over 35,000 very satisfied paying customers, every once in a while we do fail to meet someone’s expectations… and when that happens, boy oh boy, you’d better duck and take cover! Have a look at the following excerpts of headlines about my company, which were found on two different Internet-based message boards (FYI: each has been edited for punctuation and clarity):

- Beware, this company is terrible!!!!!!
- Avoid this scam at all costs!!
- Doba’s a rip-off… they are lame middlemen
- Doba is a scam… biggest fraudster ever
- Doba is cheating all of you out of your profits!

Sentiments like these—especially when posted in unmoderated online forums—are inevitable. You can be the nation’s leading fashion retailer (think Nordstrom). You can have a platinum reputation for customer service (think LL Bean). You can be a mom and pop operation with five employees and twenty regular customers. Whoever you are, regardless of the quality of your product or service, and no matter how attentive you are to the needs and desires of your customers, there’s no way that you’re ever going to satisfy everyone 100 percent of the time, and you’d better be prepared to have that fact made public.

Because everyone at Doba takes a great deal of pride in how we treat our customers, fellow employees, and community members, consumer-generated headlines like these–as well as the detailed comments that tend to follow–are very hard to read. On the one hand, as a company co-founder and CEO, I want to reach out to the people who feel that way and offer to bring them up to speed on who we are, what we do, and why our value proposition/business model is sound. And then on the other hand, sometimes I just want to grab those same people and holler, “What in the heck are you talking about, and why are you trying to hurt our reputation?â€?

The day before yesterday, someone left a comment here on my blog about those very same Doba-related message board comments. He shared that while he was indeed interested in using Doba‘s services, he first wanted my take on the message board comments. I told him that while I could certainly go through each message and respond, I thought it’d be better if I took the high road and simply acknowledge that everyone’s entitled to his or her own opinion. I also told him that it’s important to recognize that the Internet provides a dynamic forum for the sharing of both good and bad information, and I encouraged him to contact our Customer Service/Support Department for more information related to his concerns. What I didn’t tell him was this…

The people I work with to make ours the best company on the planet are a part of my family, and when someone attacks one of my family members without justification or cause, well, it just pisses me off! Each and every day I step foot into our offices, I witness first-hand smart and caring people authentically pouring their hearts and souls into a company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses find products to resell by connecting them to wholesale suppliers. So, when someone publicly states that we’re scammers and cheaters, I do tend to take it personally.

Luckily though, at the end of the day, I always come around to the realization that it’s not personal; it’s just business. I recognize that people run businesses and that people aren’t perfect. I’m also reasonable enough to recognize that some people can never be satisfied, and as a result, they will almost always have a negative disposition towards one company or another, including my own.

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  • http://www.split-bamboo.com/ David

    I think it would be well worth the cost to assign the (influential) resources to specifically search out and contact these people to understand their perspective. They are voices in your community and they can have a tremendous influence.

    You would learn a lot about your business and you would turn a good company into a great company. And I’d bet those resources dedicated to that effort would pay for themselves in the long run. It’d be a kick to do as well.

  • http://www.split-bamboo.com David

    I think it would be well worth the cost to assign the (influential) resources to specifically search out and contact these people to understand their perspective. They are voices in your community and they can have a tremendous influence.

    You would learn a lot about your business and you would turn a good company into a great company. And I’d bet those resources dedicated to that effort would pay for themselves in the long run. It’d be a kick to do as well.

  • http://www.split-bamboo.com/ David

    Here is an interesting blog post on who (or is it whom?) you should listen to…

    http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/05/dont_give_in_to.html

  • http://www.split-bamboo.com David

    Here is an interesting blog post on who (or is it whom?) you should listen to…

    http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/05/dont_give_in_to.html

  • http://www.powersellerpros.com/ Stuart

    David, that was an excellent read. Thanks for the link!

    This is why politicians have the reputation that they have. They know you can’t satisfy 100% of the people 100% of the time… at best you can only FOOL 100% of the people most of the time.

    If I had a product or service that was good enough to have 35,000 happy customers, I suppose I would make it my goal to keep at least the majority of those 35,000 paying customers happy. If I could keep that many people happy, then more are sure to come.

    As for taking things personally, well I can hardly blame you there. I tend to have an increase in blood pressure myself when I read negative comments from people that don’t know you from Adam. But I’m sure that have bad things to say about him too.

  • http://www.powersellerpros.com Stuart

    David, that was an excellent read. Thanks for the link!

    This is why politicians have the reputation that they have. They know you can’t satisfy 100% of the people 100% of the time… at best you can only FOOL 100% of the people most of the time.

    If I had a product or service that was good enough to have 35,000 happy customers, I suppose I would make it my goal to keep at least the majority of those 35,000 paying customers happy. If I could keep that many people happy, then more are sure to come.

    As for taking things personally, well I can hardly blame you there. I tend to have an increase in blood pressure myself when I read negative comments from people that don’t know you from Adam. But I’m sure that have bad things to say about him too.

  • http://www.buygrandmasattic.com/ John A. Shachter

    As the saying goes, there are always a few rotten apples in the bunch. Although my business is no where near the size yours is, I too tend to take things personally. At the end of the day however, it is my face that I have to look in the mirror at. I have to know that I did the very best I could to satisfy my custoemrs. With my business, not only do I sell products from wholesalers and dropshippers (doba), but I also sell items from a niche market that I have, and continue to develope. In the marketing game, true I am selling a product. But more importantly, I am selling my service: and particularly my OUTSTANDING customer service. When I receive a customer complaint, I take a deep breath, and tackle the situation at hand. It helps me to try and put myself into the shoes of my client/customer. If I can empathetically understand my customers wants, needs & desires; I can better serve them for the long run.

    I have not always understood many things, and there have been times (due mainly because of my lack of understanding) that I have gone on a rant; but in the end, you company, and more importantly, your people have served my needs with care, compassion and understanding. I thank you for your service, and I will continue to send suggestions for improvements, as I know that someone in your organization will actually read them.

    John

  • http://www.buygrandmasattic.com John A. Shachter

    As the saying goes, there are always a few rotten apples in the bunch. Although my business is no where near the size yours is, I too tend to take things personally. At the end of the day however, it is my face that I have to look in the mirror at. I have to know that I did the very best I could to satisfy my custoemrs. With my business, not only do I sell products from wholesalers and dropshippers (doba), but I also sell items from a niche market that I have, and continue to develope. In the marketing game, true I am selling a product. But more importantly, I am selling my service: and particularly my OUTSTANDING customer service. When I receive a customer complaint, I take a deep breath, and tackle the situation at hand. It helps me to try and put myself into the shoes of my client/customer. If I can empathetically understand my customers wants, needs & desires; I can better serve them for the long run.

    I have not always understood many things, and there have been times (due mainly because of my lack of understanding) that I have gone on a rant; but in the end, you company, and more importantly, your people have served my needs with care, compassion and understanding. I thank you for your service, and I will continue to send suggestions for improvements, as I know that someone in your organization will actually read them.

    John

  • Bryce

    Seems to me with the anonymoty of the Internet, that there’s a good chance that these comments are just slander posted by competitors to tarnish the name of your company. If you have never done anything dishonest or scamful, how would anyone ever honestly get that idea.

    This reminds me of the time that we bought a book shelf from Target and it came and looked nice, but you could push on the side and it would wobble. The shelves were designed to fold down to allow you to make other shelves larger, but this resulted in some pretty crappy structural integrity. We kept the bookshelf, but my wife went on to the Target website and posted a comment on the product page about how the sturdiness was questionable. The next day she checked back and her comment was never actually posted. In fact there were now twelve “AWESOME” postings about how great the bookshelf was, where before her posting, there were 0 comments for that product.

    Unfortunately when it comes to hype (or slander) on forums, in most cases they have to be taken with a grain of salt since there is no way to really tell where they came from. You are much better off taking in several sources and looking for the opinion of the majority.

  • Bryce

    Seems to me with the anonymoty of the Internet, that there’s a good chance that these comments are just slander posted by competitors to tarnish the name of your company. If you have never done anything dishonest or scamful, how would anyone ever honestly get that idea.

    This reminds me of the time that we bought a book shelf from Target and it came and looked nice, but you could push on the side and it would wobble. The shelves were designed to fold down to allow you to make other shelves larger, but this resulted in some pretty crappy structural integrity. We kept the bookshelf, but my wife went on to the Target website and posted a comment on the product page about how the sturdiness was questionable. The next day she checked back and her comment was never actually posted. In fact there were now twelve “AWESOME” postings about how great the bookshelf was, where before her posting, there were 0 comments for that product.

    Unfortunately when it comes to hype (or slander) on forums, in most cases they have to be taken with a grain of salt since there is no way to really tell where they came from. You are much better off taking in several sources and looking for the opinion of the majority.