Customer Service in the Industrial Marketplace

My background is in Supply Chain Logistics. From time to time our projects swell to a point where I am asked to pitch in on the purchasing duties. Now that the industrial marketplace has caught up to the rest of the world, buying has never been easier. No more are the days of sending an Excel spreadsheet and waiting upwards of a week for a reply for pricing for PC Board or Cable Assembly components. You can now log on and obtain pricing instantaneously and can complete the purchasing process within hours. In fact, supply salesman will encourage you to go online for information that they used to provide over the phone.  Unfortunately, what I have witnessed, the advocates for instantaneous interaction via social media and those on the front line are disconnected. When front line employees aren’t empowered to make decisions outside of their outline procedures the results can be disastrous. Here is what happened to me last week.

Customer Service Turned Ugly

Please wait for a site operator to respond.
You are now chatting with ‘Joanna’
Joanna: Thank you for choosing Avnet Express eCommerce Support. How may I help you?
Karla: I want to order MPX2100A, 25 pcs, but the balance would be on back order
Karla: can I get the 25 pcs price at 23 pcs and nix the last 2?
Joanna: No, you will have to pay the price break listed for the quantity purchased
Joanna: 23 pieces would be a higher price, and you can’t get 23 at the lower price
Joanna: The system won’t allow it
Karla: so if I put in 25 and it says that its backordered, can i later cancel the 2
Joanna: I cannot answer that at this time
Joanna: If you only need 23, then you will have to order 23 and pay that price
Karla: is there someone that i can speak to in person? a manager?
Karla: it doesn’t make sense to hold up an entire project for 2 pcs which would be backordered
Joanna: I can have one call you
Karla: and it doesn’t make sense to pay double shipping
Karla: please do
Karla : 215.***.****
Joanna: I see that you want the lower price, but the only way to do that online is to order 25
Karla: which i will do, but 25 are not in stock
Karla: and i don’t want to hold up the project for two pieces, nor do i want to pay for shipping twice
Joanna: Correct, but you still must pay the price break for the quantity you order
Karla: which i understand
Joanna: Once you place the order, we cannot make changes or adjustments so that you can get a lower price for a higher quantity
Joanna: We can’t make changes after submitting
Joanna: We would only be able to cancel the entire order
Karla: even after it ships?
Joanna: You are trying to get me to tell you how to creatively trick the system
Joanna: I cannot do that
Karla: i honestly do not want you to do that
Joanna: If you order online, you must pay the price break for the quantity you buy
Karla: where you are coming up with that, i don’t know
Karla: i am not trying to place an order online
Karla: i am looking up the prices online in order to place a hardcopy order
Joanna: Well, you want to enter the 25 for the lower price, then ship 23 and cancel parts you never intended to take
Karla: after being in business for 25 years i am not trying to “trick” anyone
Karla: i would take them if they were in stock
Joanna: If you want to negotiate price, you can contact Sales at 800-332-8638
Joanna: I cannot do this online for a web purchase
Joanna: If you are not intending to buy online, then Sales is your best bet to buy
Karla: I am very disappointed in this IM experience
Karla: you accused me of trying to trick the system and that was uncalled for
Karla: i don’t know how your system works, i was merely trying to find a way to get the parts that i needed and was willing to pay for the additional quantity
Karla: Your company will be hearing from me
Karla: especially after the many years Electro Soft, Inc has been a loyal customer of Avnet

Let me back up.  I would not have even contacted Avnet had the RFQ that I had sent on Monday been returned to me in the promised 24-hour time span.  I HAD to contact them after 48-hours of waiting.  I spoke to a representative who told me that a hard copy of my quote was on it’s way.  I am still waiting on that quotation, by the way.  I finally broke down and looked up each individual item online, which is why I wound up in an instant message war of words with Joanna.  What happened after the call was a tweet:

Electro Soft Twitter

I went online to their blog and tried to post the commentary, however it hung in moderation.  Within a half hour I was contacted by Bethany at Avnet (via Twitter).  She apologized and asked me to call her.  Bethany was very kind and I explained to her the entire situation.  She got in contact with the online manager who called me directly and apologized on behalf of Joanna.  While I appreciated these women calling and expressing their concern, it opened my eyes to how large organizations can have the best of intentions with social media and customer service, yet the people who are called to execute it oftentimes fail.  Its something we at Electro Soft strive to never do.

The industrial marketplace is still catching on to social media and how it fits in their respective companies.  It is an industry of scientists and engineers who rely on data analysis in order to move forward, but in this era of instantaneous everything, they can and will get left behind.  I love the fact that companies like Avnet and even Electro Soft are pioneering the way.  We are creating the data and evidence, we are a part of the case studies that prove that social media can work in this area of business.  It allows us to interact with our vendors, customers and potential customers.   It gives our companies a sense of human-ness that sometimes doesn’t exist.  And while my war of words with Joanna didn’t go so well, my hope is that we can learn from our interactions and mistakes in an effort to create a solid foundation for those to follow.

Does your business participate in social media?  How do you serve your customers?