One of the most important things to me as a natural hair blogger and enthusiast is supporting small businesses that cater to or are owned by men and women with natural hair. Part of the reason why I do the Creations series is to bring attention to natural hair businesses that otherwise may not get as much exposure. And ever since I started running a business myself, I have even greater respect for the thousands of women and men who try their best to bring products, accessories, and services to a niche that is largely neglected by the mainstream market.
However, there’s one glaring problem that some small natural hair companies – and small businesses in general – frequently run into that damage their following, reputations, and ultimately, cash flow: POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE.
Here’s a personal example*
My mom wanted to try Product A from Natural Hair Store, and after researching it myself, I gave her the go ahead. I’ve used other products from NHS, and have ordered from them myself, but I’d never used or ordered Product A. On November 30, I ordered Product A on my mom’s behalf, using her email and shipping addresses. There was a special that would allow my mom to receive Product A quickly, maybe within 2-3 days. My mom received her email confirmation of her order, and her credit card was charged.
On December 7th, my mom called me to see if I’d gotten Product A, thinking that I used my own mailing address, since she hadn’t yet received it. I went to NHS’s website and saw that they announced they would be shipping orders on December 9th, presumably due to the Thanksgiving holiday influx. We both agreed to give it another few days.
On December 8th, I decided that I wanted to order Product B from NHS, and quite a few of them, so I placed the order, and then followed up with an email letting them know I placed a large order, wanted to make sure it was in stock, and would be willing to pay extra shipping to ensure it arrived by December 16th before I went to Nigeria. I received my confirmation and mullah was taken out of my account. On December 10th I hadn’t yet received a reply, so I sent another email. This time I got a reply from Person X, who said she’d forwarded my email to Person Y and was awaiting a response. By the 11th, my mom still hadn’t received a shipping confirmation, so I asked her to email NHS about her order of Product A (including the order number), and to cc me and say she was my mother and needed her order by the 16th just like me as we were traveling together. That same day, I received my shipping confirmation. My mom’s email still received no response so by the next day I followed up in the email chain to ask for an update. It was now the 12th. In addition to emailing, I searched the web for a contact number for NHS. After 15 minutes or so, I came across one, but there was an automated message redirecting me to send an email or visit the NHS website. Frustrated, I sent a final email regarding my mom’s order.
I received Product B on December 13th. My mom received an email that her Product A shipped on December 20th. Neither of us ever received a reply to any of the emails regarding her order, and as you can imagine, my mom is not at all pleased, and is unlikely to continue patronizing NHS, and definitely won’t be recommending them to her friends.
How can companies improve their customer service?
If you list ways to contact you on your site, check them! It’s one thing to have a Facebook page, but if a customer posts asking a question and you never reply, there is no point. Every business should have a phone number; even if it is a Google Voice number, at least provide a detailed FAQ or give the customer the option to leave a message… and call them back!
I think most of us are aware that many individuals running small natural hair companies do so in addition to their full time jobs, responsibilities, or just their lives. While it’s unrealistic to expect replies to emails within 10 minutes, it makes it easier when you let us know when to expect a response, whether 24 hours or 1 week. If you’re running low on stock, post a message on your site and let the customer know when we can expect more. If you only ship once a week, on Thursdays, let us know! Being upfront about some of these things helps you avoid complaints later, as you’ve anticipated and addressed issues before they can even happen.
What do you think? Should I continue to support this business? What else can small natural hair companies do to keep their customers happy?
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I thought long and hard about whether to use the company’s real name or a pseudonym. On the one hand, I want to tell you guys the truth and be transparent, but on the other hand, I want to maintain good relations with the company and avoid slander. After all, maybe it was just an oversight or misunderstanding. I resolved this internal dilemma by telling the exact details of the situation, but leaving the company’s name out. If you manage to deduce the company on your own, that’s just fine; if not, oh well. Be assured that I sent this article to the company in question, in hopes that they can take what I’ve observed into consideration and use it to improve their business.