We all know it’s important to have policies and procedures in place. Doing so just makes practical sense and can head off issues before they happen. Take this recent question from a distributor, for example.

“How do you handle customers who discover—weeks or months after they receive an order—that there are missing pieces or other errors? Do you have a standard reminder that you send to customers upon delivery telling them to inspect the order within a certain period of time? It is stressful to receive a complaint months after delivery with the expectation that you will correct the order. “  (PPAI Distributor)

The question about how to handle missing pieces or order errors long after the order has been delivered is a good one.  This distributor is definitely working to develop solid procedures and systems to prevent issues in the first place rather than react to them after they happen.

One tip I’d offer is to have a basic statement on both the order confirmation AND the invoice (and maybe even in the signature line of emails relating to the order) that states something like, “No refunds or returns without prior authorization.  All defects, missing pieces, and/or order errors must be reported within 30 days.”  That puts the burden on the client to confirm that the order was received correctly and completely.

That being said, however, customer service is everything today.  If the client is a good one, even after 30 days, I have a “whatever it takes” attitude about problems with orders to make things right.  I might get those clients to help me cover the cost of making it right, but I work with them on a solution that makes sense for both of us in order to keep the clients – and keep them happy and loyal.

No one has an open-ended no-time-limit clause for their orders.  Retail stores give people a limited number of days to return goods.  Online merchants do the same.  Distributors have the same right to protect their bottom line by having a policy that informs clients of their responsibilities when it comes to orders.  And if the clients are unreasonable?  Maybe that’s a warning sign that it’s time to cut those clients loose and fish for better ones to replace them!