How Not To Do CRM: A Case Study

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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How Not To Do CRM: A Case Study

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Bix Beiderbecke's "Trumbology:"

Along with the (hopefully eternally departed) GlobeTel saga, another ongoing area of CRM coverage for First Coffee has been the actions of certain online vendors whose malfeasance destroys customer confidence.

It's not like online commerce is going away, we're not getting all apocalyptic about it here, but frankly put, there are a lot of people who'd be doing a lot more business online if they simply knew who to avoid. And there'd be even more people doing business online if such vendors weren't there in the first place.

This is quite a big deal here at First Coffee, seeing as how we're primarily a Customer Relationship Management blog, educating your musical taste is merely a sideline -- and to that end, pay no attention to the left-wing British rag The Guardian's list "50 Albums That Changed Music."

Suffice it to say that any list which can get through 50 supposedly "influential" albums, including The Spice Girls, Mary J. Blige, Massive Attack, Chic and The Human League, without listing Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, one of the two or three records which changed how everyone wrote songs, was put together by Brits simply incapable of understanding what makes an American-created musical genre tick. It's kind of like thinking the human actors were the real draws in Jaws and Jurassic Park.

One's surprised Frankie Goes To Hollywood isn't on the list, as their idea of "influential" is "sounds like what I heard when I was stoned in a club in Manchester a few years back." One record is cited for its "influence" on "Native American and Maori reggae bands." I'll give you all day and you can't come up with an example of a Native American or Maori reggae band anybody outside of the Guardian's editorial offices has ever heard.

But CRM is based on trust. That's it. Trust that you as a customer will be treated fairly in your interactions with the company, and trust from the company's point of view that you the customer will respond to efforts to retain you as a customer. And face it, those of us who do business online a lot still have that twinge of "Am I going to get ripped off this time?" when we hit that "Send Order" button.

Which is why as CRM proponent First Coffee takes a particularly dim view of companies who have a pattern of confusing, underdelivering and otherwise scaring off customers. One company I've had personal experience of doing this is, and I wrote about the experience and the terrible customer "service" they offer, vowing never to buy anything from them again. That post, and topic, inspired more comments and e-mails than any other topic I've ever written on.

They keep coming, too: Recently I got this comment. This person's experience sounds hellish, but I tell you it's of a piece with almost every other commenter's experience with this particular online retailer, so I use it as a morality play, my Textbook CRM Case for How Not To Treat Online Customers. provides you with an extensive CRM checklist of What Not To Do To Customers.

Business people love case studies, the comments I've gotten on add up to the Stephen King of CRM case studies. So let's use this as a pop quiz. Count how many things does to provide bad service and lose a customer. We'll compare scores at the end, extra points for tallying up the unbelievably bad contact center service as well, start quote:

DON'T USE CAIMAN! Hopefully I've caught you in time. I recently ordered something for my father's birthday (which is 7/22). I placed the order through on 7/16, which told me my estimated delivery time was 2-6 days. If I got the item in 6 days, that would be just enough time for Dad's b-day. I paid EXTRA for the faster shipping. connected me to, their supplier for this item. It said the item was located in Florida, and since I'm in Massachusetts, the package shouldn't take that long to arrive. Since I'm pretty impatient, I logged into Caiman's website to make sure my package had been shipped. For three days it said "processing." 

We all know that "processing" does not mean "shipped," so I tried to contact Caiman. There is NO PHONE NUMBER AT ALL! I wrote them a few e-mails which I was supposed to have answered in 24 hours, but that never happened. I previously asked them a question about the color of he item I ordered and they never got back to me on that, either. 

Anyway, I figured I'd contact (another one with no phone number ... I had to call the media department) since they already debited my MC for the money for the item. They told me that if it goes past 48 hours, they themselves can send a message to the supplier asking them to get back to me ASAP.

I finally start getting answers from Caiman. The first e-mail I received was something like, "Your order is still processing." It was one of those generic message. WTF, right? Then I got a message regarding my question about the color of my item. It said, "Please read your item description for further details." Whatever. I later checked the site and it said that my item was "in transit" and that the ETA for delivery was 7/24. 

I NEED THIS BY 7/22!!! I went to and checked to see what ETA they had and they had a delivery date of 7/25. UNACCEPTABLE! Why did I pay for shipping in 2-6 days if they weren't going to send it? I start freaking. There had to be a phone number for THANKS TO THIS SITE, I found a contact number. [Abebooks: 250-475-6013, Caiman: 305-262-4973. You're welcome - FC]

I called them and I finally got a rep. She looked up my item and I asked her why I would receive it on 7/24 and not 7/22 like I expected. She said, "Uh ... your item hasn't even been shipped." I told her what had posted on their site under "track your order" but she told me that they were wrong. I said, "Well, what should I do?" She said it could take anywhere from 2 days to a MONTH to get my order. I asked her to look up a possible tracking number since also said that my item was shipped (I figured she just didn't know what she was talking about) but then she shocked me. She said, "Do you want to cancel the order?" 

I said no, but she insisted and said, "Maybe you should just cancel. I would." HELLO? Don't they want business? The rep just told me to cancel. I said, "GLADLY!" She told me that I would be sent a confirmation e-mail and that my refund of over $100 should be processed in 24-72 hours. 

THAT IS NOT THE WORST PART! I asked for a supervisor and she said that she didn't have one. I asked her if she was the boss of the whole company (not having a boss and all) but she said no. I asked to speak to someone else but she said that there was no one there. She said she was in a room alone and that she was the first one to arrive for work that day. WTF???? 

I hang up with her and call They told me that the supplier (Caiman) has to cancel the order. The best part was when the rep took my call and looked up my item number, she reads, "You ordered 'The Rise and Fall of the British Empire,' right?" Um ... no. Anyway, she told me that I should wait to hear from Caiman despite the fact that is the one who debited my MC. Nonetheless, I get an e-mail from Caiman that read "a request for a refund will be processed in 24-72 hours." Oh well, I guess my Dad isn't getting a b-day gift for 24-72 hours. 

HERE IT IS ... THE BEST PART. My bank called me. Suspicious charges from have shown up on my debit card. The first one was for $1.00 something and the next one was for $143.00. The bank held the charges because they looked suspicious and so they were calling me to find out if I had made those purchases. I told her the only charge I authorized for my debit card was the $100+ order to She said that was approved, but she would have to cancel my card because apparently someone had taken the number and was using it to buy stuff on 

I NEVER had this problem before ordering from Abebooks/ Seriously, never go through either of them. It's a trap. They take your card and make charges on it. You will never get your stuff. I'm almost positive that I'm going to have to chase these S.O.B.s down for my damn refund. I'm so annoyed. DON'T USE THEM! Caiman sucks.

End quote. Okay, how'd you do? I lost count about the time the contact center employee urged the customer to cancel the order from the company, but I'd used up all my fingers and had taken my shoes off by that point, I remember.

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