Story Time With Carbonmade

A collection of customer service stories.

This article was published on November 11, 2009.
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Customer service is often an after-thought, but not for guys like Craig Newmark (craigslist) and Tony Hsieh (Zappos) who built their businesses around it. At Carbonmade, we deeply care about all of our customers and helping them the best we can, regardless whether they're paying or not. Here are three unrelated stories, involving a Carbonmade customer, a competitor's customer, and a guy who just happened across our service.

Story Time With Carbonmade

Story: Emily Hanhan, "Overbilled"

Emily Hanhan got in touch with us on January 22, 2009 because she was mistakenly being double-billed. Emily first paid for her Whoo! account through PayPal, then switched to credit card. Somehow PayPal — but we take full responsibility — failed to cancel her PayPal subscription when she switched payments.

She wrote us at 12:54 PM on that Thursday, and I quickly responded with an "I'll look into this for you" at 1:13 PM and contacted Jason over Campfire to help me look into the problem. We found the root cause, and Jason got back to Emily at 3:34 PM after handling the refund and manually cancelling her subscription. He wrote: "I also looked up all the transactions made via PayPal. Believe it or not, we actually incorrectly charged you $96! Practically a crisp $100 bill."

Instead of refunding the $96, we rounded up the refund to $100. It was our mistake and even though $100 is only $4 more than she was "owed" we felt like it was a better gesture to round up rather than nickel and dime the refund. Again, it was our fault and she was kind enough to contact us directly rather than submit a chargeback request through PayPal.

We thought that was all we'd hear from Emily.

Jason and I both have Google Alerts set up for any blog or website mention of Carbonmade and the next day we stumbled upon this article in Consumerist entitled Carbonmade Quickly Responds To Error, Fixes It In Less Than 4 Hours. Emily had written to Consumerist about her billing fiasco, but thankfully only had amazing things to say. Here's a snippet:

Having had a fast response from Carbonmade when I had an unrelated question a few months ago and not having much hope in Paypal, I emailed the main Carbonmade contact email at 12:30pm today. Not only did I get an email back 20 min later saying "Hey, we're looking into it," but by 3:30pm, they emailed me with an apology, explanation, and a Paypal refund was processed through. Not only that, they found that the mistake had occured not six but eight times, a $96 refund. Except they rounded it up to an even $100 for my troubles!

While we know $4 is not much, considering the state of the economy, I was not only impressed by the small act of generosity, but the quick response of this company.

I remember blushing when reading through the Consumerist post (and the comments). Here's one comment: "My heart goes pitter-patter when I hear of good companies like this. Yay, Carbonmade!" I remember being so proud.

She also wrote us privately: "Hey, I should be thanking you! Seriously, the way you handled the issue was fantastic, more than I could ask for. Even before today, I've recommended your site to many of my fellow design folks. But today just solidified what a great site/company Carbonmade is! :)"

What a fantastic moment.

Story: Ruth Kalinka, "Tea With the Competition"

On September 15th just after we moved into our new office, I tweeted out from the @carbonmade account asking if anyone was in the area and wanted to grab coffee or tea and chat Carbonmade. Ruth Kalinka lives in Philadelphia, but happens to find her way to New York City every so often, so she favorited the tweet to respond to when she was next in town.

On October 7th I received an e-mail from her asking if the offer to meet up was still on the table. Of course. Not thinking twice, I went to check her portfolio only to find that she wasn't a Carbonmade customer, but in fact was using a competitor of ours, ViewBook, for her portfolio. A little shocked, I asked her why she was using ViewBook and she responded: "Perhaps you can show me how I can do the same even better with Carbonmade?"

I was up for the challenge. Although I felt a bit odd meeting with someone I had expected to be a customer of Carbonmade, I went into our chat over tea at Oro Bakery ready to make my pitch. Also, simply to hear why she found ViewBook useful would be valuable to me.

I came away understanding why she was using ViewBook, and thinking maybe I had secured a new customer. She wrote me after our meeting: "Thanks so much for meeting up on Thursday. It was great chatting with you and finding out who's behind Carbonmade. I'm excited to see what's next for your company (and my portfolio)!" I didn't try to push Carbonmade on her. We just chatted our way through a bunch of different topics: her career as a freelancer, Carbonmade, ViewBook briefly, her experiences with clients, and other things.

All in all, I was able to make a connection with Ruth, share my experiences, and (hopefully) gently convince her of the benefits of using Carbonmade. She now often interacts with our @carbonmade account and is a friend of Carbonmade in more ways than one.

Story: Stewart Mackenzie, "Fire Drill Service Test"

Stewart Mackenzie's story is funny, because he's not a customer and I don't think has any intention of being one. However, "I wont forget you cause of it ;) my best wishes to you guys!" was the conclusion of an e-mail correspondence with him.

Stewart read my piece two weeks ago entitled What's a Non Programmer To Do? and wanted to test my customer service response time: did I really practice what I preach? That evening at 9:50 PM Stewart wrote an e-mail to [email protected] with the subject line "firedrill service test" and the body: "This is a fire drill for the customer service of carbonmade."

Now I happened to have my e-mail open at the time — as I often do — clicked the reply button as quickly as possible and in under a minute wrote back: "Hi Stewart. :) Told yah I'm fast." Then for fun I told Jason in Campfire to respond too. He added two minutes later: "Spencer told me some alarms went off. Do we need to call the fire department?"

He naturally got a kick out of it and responded three minutes later with: "awesome, really really awesome." This was a riot and Jason and I had a lot of fun with it. We continued to toss e-mails back and forth with Stewart. Asked him about how he'd heard about us, what he was working on, etc., and ended the correspondence as friends. I gave him my personal e-mail address and told him to contact me any time with any entrepreneurial questions as he's a fellow entrepreneur working on a startup with his wife. We didn't gain a customer, but we gained a friend and now have a great story to share.

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