As the seller it is at your discretion how you handle complaints from your customers about your products and fulfilment service.
That said - we do ask that you aim for a high customer service standard and adhere to the Returns & Refund Policy.
To help you we have put together this guide with best practice advice on how to successfully handle the most common issues.
In over 5 years of running Yumbles and prior experience of running large customer service teams for many years for other online marketplaces I have personally seen thousands of seller-buyer customer interactions: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly! This guide distils the very best practice.
First things first - How to Minimise Issues
Of course prevention is always best.
Customer complaints should be rare if you have the following best practice:
a) have very clear, complete and accurate product descriptions so that customers know what they're getting (including clear shelf life information if the items are perishable)
b) ensure your shipping information and timescales are clear and correct. On Yumbles customers will be shown delivery timescales in line with your settings here - and they will rely on those.
c) fulfil orders on time in line with the shipping timescales on the orders, or if things change advise the customer quickly of revised delivery timescales,
d) package your products well. Use the rattle test - if it rattles when you shake it then damage is likely. Parcels WILL get thrown around. If you are new to selling online then send out some test parcels.
e) use a reliable delivery company. DPD and Royal Mail are amongst the most well reviewed, and most popular choices on Yumbles, but do your own research.
f) Where possible use a tracked service. Ideally one with in flight notifications. Tracked delivery is essential for perishable items and high value orders.
g) For perishable items - avoid them being caught up and spoiling en route by always using a guaranteed 24-hour service, never shipping on a Friday or Saturday, making sure your customer knows the specific delivery date, and also make sure the items are fine to travel for 48 hours in case of a missed first delivery attempt.
h) Pass tracking information to the customer so that they can see the status of their delivery.
Complaint Handling - General Approach
If you do find yourself dealing with a customer complaint then our advice is to:
- respond quickly
- apologise if you've made an error
- show genuine acknowledgement of and empathy for their disappointment - no matter the cause they had an expectation that wasn't met hence their complaint.
- make it clear that you are keen to get it resolved for them.
These steps alone quickly diffuse a disappointed customer, and likewise if not followed can quickly lead to an escalating situation.
Final general pointer - learn from every complaint. How did it happen and how could it have been prevented. Make changes where you can to avoid similar cases in future. Complaints are costly particularly for a small business in terms of time spent dealing with them, refunds and reputation risk.
Common complaints & how to solve them:
General Return Request
If the product is returnable (i.e. not perishable nor bespoke) and in a returnable state (i.e. not opened/ used) then you are legally obliged to accept a return request provided they notify you within 14 days of the item being delivered. You are entitled to ask that they cover the cost of return and we do flag that in the Returns & Refund Policy.
Notify us (email@example.com) when you have received the returned items so that we can issue the refund.
We strongly recommend that damaged items are replaced asap OR a partial refund if they can still make use of the item.
If the customer does not want to accept a replacement or partial refund (e.g. because it is past when the item was needed and so it is now too late for them) then we recommend you offer a full refund.
You may require photographic evidence of damage first and/ or for the items to be returned to you (this will also assist you in preventing damage again in future). The Returns & Refunds Policy does ask that customers do not throw out items before getting in touch with the seller.
Items Not as Described
If a customer has received items that do not reasonably match the photos and/ or descriptions of your listing then we strongly recommend that you offer replacement or full refund. For example if the ingredients/ dietary information in the listing was incorrect.
(Don't forget to urgently correct your listing).
If a customer hasn't received their full order then send out the missing items/ the correct order asap. If they no longer want the missing items or order then you may have to accept the cost of the error and offer a partial or full refund depending on what was missing.
Not Satisfied with Product(s)
If the customer reports any other more subjective concern about the product e.g. they don't like the taste, then it is at your discretion if you wish to offer anything as goodwill. Sending them out something else, or maybe some extra samples or a partial refund could go a long way if you want to give them something but avoid a full refund.
Lost Delivery (i.e. no proof of delivery within reasonable timeframe)
It falls to the seller to ensure that an order reaches the intended recipient's address (as provided on the order) even if the issue is that the delivery service you use has lost the item.
If an item has been dispatched, a reasonable time has elapsed (e.g. 4 days) and you do not have a tracked proof of delivery (or attempts of delivery) then we strongly recommend that you arrange for the customer to receive replacement items asap.
If they do not wish to accept replacements and instead wish to cancel (e.g. if the item is no longer needed) then you may need to agree to a full refund.
It is for this reason that we strongly recommend that all orders over a certain value are sent with at least a basic form of tracked delivery so that you have proof of delivery and piece of mind.
Failed Delivery (i.e. delivery attempted but not successful)
If your delivery services has attempted delivery, and the customer has been notified of the delivery attempts and given options for re-delivery or collection, then you have met your service obligations.
If the item was attempted to be delivered by your delivery service but the customer claims they were unaware of those attempts (e.g. no missed delivery card through their door) then we would advise that you help them to track the parcel down at a local depot for them, or arrange for re-delivery or replacement.
When customers order they do so knowing the estimated or guaranteed delivery dates calculated from your shipping settings. That forms part of the service expectations.
Therefore if the item has been successfully delivered but it arrived many days after the estimated delivery date OR a day or more later than the guaranteed delivery date AND you had not advised the customer ahead of time about a delay then we strongly recommend that you offer some suitable form of goodwill. That may be sending some complimentary items or a partial refund (or at least a refund of the delivery charge, particularly if they paid for a guaranteed delivery).
If the item has been successfully delivered but it was just a day or two later than the estimated delivery date then we recommend that you advise the customer that the delivery date was provided as an estimate. You may or may not want to offer any goodwill.
If you have dispatched an order to an address that was not the ship to address supplied on the order then you would be rightly expected to make it good by sending out a replacement order to the correct address.
However if you have dispatched an order to the shipping address exactly as provided on the order, but the customer later reports that it was not the correct shipping address then the customer is not reasonably entitled to a refund. You have fulfilled the order as received and met your obligations.
The shipping address is something customers are asked to double check at checkout and is then also provided to them after they place their order via the email confirmation so the onus is on them to make sure that the address supplied with their order is correct.
However of course in the interests of good customer service it is always good to offer some practical options even if a full refund is not warranted. If you can retrieve the item from your courier and it is returnable for resale then perhaps you refund less the costs you have incurred. Or perhaps the customer can still retrieve the item (if the address is known to them). Otherwise politely suggest that they re-order to the correct address.
We ask that all sellers do their best efforts to resolve issues with their customers directly, which should be possible if you follow the advice in this guide.
In the event that you and your customer really cannot agree on a resolution, either party can request that we Yumbles step in and provide dispute resolution.
When we are asked to provide dispute resolution we will do our best efforts to quickly find a solution that both parties are happy with. We will follow the advice as outlined in this guide.