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Customer Service and Negative Feedback

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Hey everyone. We have started sales and things have been going fairly well considering the many decks stacked against the small guy these days. 

So far, customers seem to like our rum. I've gotten all sorts of positive feedback on it. Everything from what we include about the flavor profile publicly to new things that come up during tastings. Nothing extremely negative so far, until this weekend.

I received an email from a customer who bought a bottle in a liquor store sometime last week, saying the product tasted and like plastic and that it was terrible. Of course, this is upsetting to me, because I put a lot of care into making sure every batch meets strict quality standards. 

Ive invited the customer in to the distillery so I can check his bottle to ensure there isn't a quality issue. If there is, I will Do what I can to make an exchange, but if it's simply a taste preference, I don't know what I'm going to do.

Has anyone else run into this issue, and if so, how did you handle it? I want to make sure that the customer knows we care about his feedback and that we will take care of him if he's unhappy and if there is something we can do about it. 

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You are doing the right thing. Determine first if it is bottle specific, and exchange if so. If it is a taste preference, and they bought it directly from you, if you have other product to offer they might prefer, offer to exchange/credit. If you don't, and they have not consumed much of the product, considering how early things are in your business right now, you want absolutely no negative press. I would accept return and refund directly if they purchased it from you. But, since they purchased through a retailer, if you can, the best way to do this is have them return to the retailer, and honor any request for refund through the distributor, as a quality issue. You should have established with your distributor how customer returns should be handled. If you have a good relationship with the retailer, you might prep them for this. I am not even sure if you can legally refund them the retail price directly, that might be governed by state law.

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Returns in NC are iffy. I know each store receipt says all sales final. Best we can do is to give this person a good experience. If the bottle is really not in good shape, we may be able to exchange it, but I'll have to check with our ABC on that. In any case, we are going to shoot for a positive customer experience to help this person understand we will make it right for him. 

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If you think an exchange is iffy then get two gift certificates for him. One is for his time to come to your location. It’s his time, and if you were him you would probably appreciate getting something for your time. Get a second one for the cost + tax of the bottle in the store plus a little more. Be as nice as possible (as long as he is also). Before you get to the bottle in question give him the tour of the place (if he wants to), let him see the work that goes into each bottle, and do all the tastings he wants. This will build sympathy and should reduce any negative reviews he posts.

Scenario 1: Bottle is fine, but customer doesn’t like the taste
Once you’re done with the tour you check the bottle. If it’s fine then give him the “thanks for your time” gift cert. Try to explain as nicely as possible that your product is as it supposed to be, but unfortunately it’s not his style. You could also recommend other versions of your products if he likes them better. 

 Scenario 2: Bottle is fine, go overboard with customer service
Same as above but give him both gift certs just as way to push him to not be overly negative in his review if he does any. 

Scenario 3: Bottle is bad
Give him both certs, tell him it unfortunately does happen. 

Scenario 4: Just give him $$$
Buy one bigger gift certificate and give it to him when he shows up. Don’t bother with the bottle until after he leaves. Do the tour tasting etc. Just be uber nice. Kind of like #2, but it removes any possibility of a confrontation. 

You will not be able to do this for everyone that doesn’t like your product. But if you treat him well hopefully he will tell his friends that you were very nice and maybe win over some other new customers. This may be a way of getting something positive out of a not so great situation.  

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