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Provo Craft Offers To Take Back Life’s A Beach Cricut Cartridges

Provo Craft president/CEO Jim Thornton has issued a statement regarding the customer complaints about missing images on the Rob & Bob “Life’s A Beach” Cricut cartridge.

The company is offering to take back the cartridge for a full refund from buyers who purchased the cartridge between its release and April 14th. Customers have been provided a mailing address for dissatisfied buyers to mail their cartridge and receipt to. (If you’d like more details, they are available at the above link to the full Provo Craft statement.)

Unfortunately, the statement that includes this “apology” offer to customers is yet another session of Provo Craft’s ongoing seminar in “How Not To Handle Customer Service Problems”. Instead of issuing a mea culpa and accepting responsibility for the mis-communication of their retailers (who are, after all, their representatives in marketing the product), Provo Craft’s statement went to great lengths to absolve themselves of blame in the situation.

First, Thornton made clear that Provo Craft still apparently feels that it is customers’ fault for not understanding that displayed artwork was preliminary:

It is true that it was communicated that the artwork some of you initially saw was ‘preliminary’. However, I want to make it right with those of you that did not understand this clearly.

The fact that many consumers saw the preliminary artwork displayed without any labels noting that it was subject to change is completely ignored, in favor of just blaming the consumers for “not understanding”. But consumers can’t understand something they are never told, and the company needs to acknowledge the reality of the screw-up by retailers and indicate how they will prevent this from happening in the future (watermarked artwork, policing retailers better, etc).

After blaming customers’ lack of understanding for the problem but offering to take back their cartridges anyway, Provo Craft then acknowledges it has customer service problems but blames it on the difficulties of the new technology they are selling:

Our number one priority at Provo Craft is to make sure that our customers are thoroughly delighted with the experience of using our products. We frankly recognize that we have some work to do in this area. As you might imagine, the customer service complexity of running a technology company is a little different that when we use [sic] to sell products like paper and stickers. The demands of training customers on how to use our products and fielding a wide range of questions have stretched our customer service capabilities in ways we have never experienced here at Provo Craft. This, however, is not an excuse to be slow to respond or to become arrogant in our approach. Please know that we will do a better job of listening to you and responding to your needs.

There are several problems with the company’s approach here.

First, upset customers don’t care to hear Provo Craft’s sob story about how hard the company’s job is. That’s their job, it is what the customer is paying them to do (by buying their products), and frankly in this economy customers don’t care to hear excuses about why they are getting a poor experience for their money. They just want to hear how their problem is going to be fixed. PERIOD.

Which leads to the second problem with this statement: It makes a lot of empty-sounding promises that aren’t backed up by any concrete plans. Provo Craft’s customers, as evidenced by the postings on the Cricut message board, are at the end of their rope with the company’s customer service. They’ve dealt with rebate and reward programs not working as promised, with Design Studio content not being delivered as promised, and with many other issues. At this point, it is going to take more than just the words of a promise to convince them things will change. They need something more concrete than that: a plan of action.

Some customer service crisis lessons that can be taken away from Provo Craft’s problems:

  • Don’t ever blame the customer
  • Don’t make promises – make a plan
  • Don’t try to avoid responsibility
  • Don’t be slow in responding

Why are quality customer relations important? The world’s biggest retailer, Amazon.com, responded poorly this week to a customer service and public relations problem, and ended up ripped apart in every major U.S. news outlet as a result. For a great analysis of how their poor customer service caused their image problem this week, give a read to Shocking Truth Behind Amazon’s “Glitch”.

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