Thursday, February 9, 2012

Customer Don'ts: Privacy Goes Both Ways

As many of you know, I have been writing a series of articles called "marketing tidbits" designed to help small business owners, artists and others in the DIY community avoid the pitfalls of poor customer service.  However, with each article there has been something nagging at the back of my mind - namely, the responsibilities customers have in each of these situations.  Initially, you might think a customer's only requirement is to pay for the item ordered, but I would argue that each customer is almost, if not as responsible, for the relationship as the artist/shop owner is.  

Let's start here, because this may be the most important "don't" that I ever write:

We all know it is unacceptable for shop owners to share the personal contact information of their clients.  I would never provide e-mails, phone numbers or addresses of my clients to another shop owner.  I don't even use the information from my customers' invoices to create a mailing list - I find that rude.

However, one of my good friends and  a popular diaper bag/overnight tote/purse designer, Brooke of Brooke Van Gory Designs, told me today that one of her customers (unnamed) distributed Brooke's home address to several of her friends, none of whom Brooke knows.  Apparently this customer volunteered the address so her friends could mail in orders, thus circumventing Brooke's online ordering system.

I was just short of horrified.
We're not talking about the published business address of a large corporation here, but the home of a woman who runs a small business while caring for her two children.  Just because Brooke is a business owner, she has not given up her right to keep her home address relatively private.

Once you get past the terribly invasive act of distributing someone else's home address, there is another "customer don't."  Brooke has an online shop for a reason.  She keeps her inventory there and tracks her sales and projects.  Anyone who wants a bag from her is always directed to her shop (and the turnaround time is currently 6 weeks).  None of these women had any reason to expect it was OK for them to circumvent the BVG ordering process, least of all the original customer who suggested it without first checking with the business owner.

Never think that small business owners are so desperate for your order that they will let you run rough shod over them.  Some may, but the best ones never will.

Read all "Customer Don'ts."