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Are You a Good Customer?


Today I had the pleasure to deal with a new customer that reminded me the importance of being a good customer in my own life, you know the other party at the other end of the transaction whom so-called experts say is always right, no matter what, even when the customer caused the problems to start with.  As ecommerce vendors or website owners, we sometimes forget that we are customers too when we deal with various vendors for our business needs. We've all heard stories of nightmare customers, or on the flip side, customer service that left much to be desired, but I would like to concentrate this article on the side of being a good customer and still getting what you need from a new vendor. So I will dispense of the arguments for good customer service and save those for other posts.

So how do you practice being a good customer?  There is no hard fast rule set and you still need to tread carefully as there are plenty of people on the web that will take advantage of you and others. So assuming that there actually are some decent companies that people would like to start doing business with, here are some great tips to help your new vendor offer you great service when things don't go as planned due to technology failures.

Patience When Something Goes Wrong: This tip is for those situations that are not mission critical such as not getting your SSL certificate issued within a 2 day deadline landing on a weekend when an entire server full of hundreds of ecommerce sites that depend on secure transactions. No, this covers those that happen when you may or may not be in a hurry but you are not facing a truly life threatening issue for your business and you are working with a company or person that appears to fit your needs and comfort level as a new vendor.

Things go wrong with technology and email delivery, even for those that are good at customer service.  Do not jump to conclusions and assume ill will on their behalf. This will save you a lot of frustration in dealing with their customer service processes.

Contact the Vendor, Calmly and Professionally: This is obvious, but what is not obvious is the attitude in which you approach the situation.  Seek a solution, not revenge nor react out of malice.  Think of it as karma. After all, when your customers start making claims in their anger, is this the face you see in the mirror when you are the customer? Most companies and people will solve your issue as soon as they are aware of the situation. So do not become the customer you detest.

Do not count on email as a sure thing: This is a cardinal rule in my mind. Email delivery can be disrupted in so many ways, ranging from spam filters at the server and/or mail client level to accidental deletion with other spam.  If you have contacted them via email, do not assume they are ignoring you if you receive no response. Instead assume that your email is getting caught in spam or not being delivered due to an error on one side or another.

Do Not Assume the Worst: In one recent instance, I saw a customer get themselves blocked by a server's security systems and then threaten to do the vendor harm because they thought the vendor was afraid to admit that their services had appeared to go offline, when it was only the customer that could not reach the site. Such assumptions, if they are untrue, will prevent you from having a good relationship with the vendor in the future especially when you threaten them and it could have been your oversight or actions that led to the problem in the first place.

Don't Hold a Vendor Hostage: This only weakens your relationship. If you practice this with your vendors, you will be the first customer they cut when they no longer wish to deal with your hassle or they find more pleasant customers to deal with.  Also, if you paid $50 for services, don't expect $100 in support services.  Be reasonable and fair according to the value you you exchanged with your vendor.

Escalate with Good Intent: If you receive no reply, especially if you cannot gain access to their site for a long while (a day or more), maybe you will not be able to reach them. If you paid them via a service such as PayPal, lodge a dispute with them. Use this option as last resort when all other efforts such as site access, emails and phone calls have yielded no results. This will most likely get their attention in the case where their website seems down and emails seem to disappear into the nether regions. In the case I mention above, it was the only way to get the vendor's attention for the customer, however they assumed bad intent and sabotaged the resolution and degraded down to making threats to do the vendor economic harm by taking out a word out of context they wished to use as justification for their bad attitude.  So try to work it out with the vendor. In most cases where it's an established business, it will end in no harm and no foul if handled respectfully and with no malice at the outset.


In the end, being a good customer comes down to having charity and giving the other party the benefit of the doubt. Whether you believe in karma or consider it wisdom, being the customer you would want to work with will get you a lot further with a vendor and allows a chance for a mutually benefiting relationship to foster.



Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 23:53

Dangers of Putting All Your Eggs in Someone Else's Basket


I read a shared re-post by an acquaintance  ( Phil Windley ) today on Google's G+ and it sparked a few thoughts I've had previously.

Ever since the free email services started popping up several years ago, I've been highly suspicious of the tendency to "put all your eggs in someone else's basket".  On occasion I've warned others of not relying on services such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc for your email lifeblood. I normally ask folks that use these services: who owns your emails & files? What happens if you wish to move the data or back it up?  The answers are usually blank stares or some comment about how the service is trustworthy and more reliable / cost effective than running your own service or server. Other answers indicate freedom from an ISP should they need to obtain a new one or be away from their home or work accounts. While these services are convenient and easy, is that enough to become a tenant on the internet over being a property owner?

Given that these services are "easy" to use, people trade their rights in their own content for ease of use and convenience.  But when something goes amiss and a robotic overlord closes your account at such a service, what are you to do?  Your personal, academic and/or professional life has just been disrupted and hijacked.  Then add on top of the shock of having your account closed without notice the act that you are not afforded a means of resolving the issue.  This is a very real and scary fact for many people. Here's a very recent example of a normal person that was actually a huge supporter of Google's services that was closed down by Google and left hanging without answers nor options:


In the Beginning...Your-Domain-Name-Here


I was sure that I had broken my website.  I didn't know how to make a website, or change a website, or how a website works, but obviously, I knew how to break one.

I had purchased a craft and stitchery website from some old friends who were retiring in August, because I like crafts and stitching.  It hadn't occurred to me that, in order to run a website, it was also important that I like websites.

It was now December, and my old friends had contacted me to express their concern that I had not updated, changed, added to, or removed anything from the website since August 1st when I bought it.  So intimidated was I by the whole concept of an internet website, that I had not touched the thing in over 4 months.  In ecommerce, that is an eternity.

I decided I needed something that would 'Add to Cart'. How about that for an update?  The old site didn't have any add-to-cart.  People wrote down the numbers of the items they wanted and emailed them in, along with their payment information (cringe).  So began the journey that led me here, writing at you, about setting up an online store.

The first step had been calling my hosting company to ask how a person went about adding to cart (they, of course, laughed at me, but they did direct me to the cPanel script installation section and said to try one of those).  The week before I had learned how to sign into my website's cPanel, so that was fresh in my mind, or else I might have had to call again.  After the hour and a half of support ticket exchanges about how to get into cPanel, followed by another exchange a week later about how a person is supposed to "add to cart", I'm sure I was marked by my host as one of those 'high cost, low opportunity' customers.  But I digress.

The second step had been clicking to install AgoraCart version 4.0kb, and, as instructed, then clicking the link to go to the store manager.  Something like "". And...drum roll please...

Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.

After psyching myself up to actually try something like installing a script, I was met with sudden and complete failure. I did not know what to do.  The wonderful "installation successful!" page was gone, and I was at a dead end.  I should have started with something small, like moving a comma or something on the home page.  But no, I had to go whole hog, and now I had broken my website.

Around 3-5 minutes of consternation later, I realized that I was probably supposed to put in my website name where it said "your-domain-name".

Almost 5 years and countless installs later, I still make that mistake.  *Lightbulb* I probably know how to fix that in the code now, for new versions, if Mister Ed hasn't already.

With renewed hope, I typed in my website name instead of "your-domain-name".  And, drum roll please...

500 Internal Server Error.

This was worse. Now, I had not only broken my website, but it was saying that I had broken the entire server as well?

No way was I going to try to fix this on my own, or do anything else.  Like a good member of Generation Y, I took to the internet and googled "Agoracart 500 Internal Server Error".

And that's when I found the Free User Forums.  Maybe that's how you found this post. :)

Anyway, the solution was to chmod (or change the permissions) the agora.cgi and protected/manager.cgi files to 0755, either in cPanel or my favorite FTP program. In most installs now this is done for you.  In cPanel, if you click the file name, on the right you will see a link to "Change Permissions".

The rest of my website was still working, and it turns out that "Internal Server Error" does not mean you have broken your server.

Almost 5 years and countless installs later, I still forget to change the permissions on those files (in the cases where it's necessary).

The bottom line is not to be discouraged, and not to be intimidated, because often the solutions to your problems are as simple as putting in your website name where it says "your-domain-name", and there is nothing you can break that can't be fixed.




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