Customer Service

My wife is currently in Hawaii with family and I recently decided to send her some flowers for her birthday. I picked out a beautiful rose and lily bouquet from an online floral delivery service, paid my money and set the date of delivery. On her birthday she called and said they were beautiful flowers and texted me a photo of the arrangement.

One problem. The arrangement didn’t have a rose or a lily in it. In fact, it didn’t even remotely resemble the arrangement I paid for (at no small price). So I emailed customer service and complained and they apologized profusely and promised to send out the proper arrangement the following day at no cost.

My wife never got the re-delivery as promised, so I asked for a refund. Fortunately, they gave it to me. So I’d call it a bit of a wash as far a customer service goes. They failed to correct their mistake, but at least they gave me the refund.

Why do I bring this up?

We’re often told that when we’re writing we should write for ourselves and hope that the readers will follow. I’ve said this myself a number of times and believe it to be true. That if you write a story that you love, their will surely be others out that who love it just as much or even more.

Nothing wrong with that.

But I think, as professional storytellers, we do owe our readers good customer service. And by customer service I mean that we deliver what we promise. If we’re painting pictures with our first few paragraphs—the paragraphs that make readers decide to buy the book—then we had damn well make sure that the rest of the book holds up and takes the reader on an emotional thrill ride.

I’ve personally read far too many books that started out promising, then began to peter out about halfway through as if the writer either lost his or her way or simply lost interest. Then they slapped a pretty cover on their work and threw it up on Amazon, hoping they’d done enough to get some sales.

And that’s poor customer service.

Good customer service starts long before you push that button on KDP. You should never publish (or, if you’re traditionally oriented, send out) a book until you have a solid working knowledge of characterization, dialogue, narrative, voice and, maybe most important, structure.

When we first decide to write a book, many of us sit down and just start writing without understanding any of the above. And that’s fine. The best way to learn these things is to start putting words on paper and use the lessons you’ve learned from reading other authors’ work to guide you.

But just because you’ve managed to finish that first book does not mean it’s ready to be published or sent out to an agent or publishing house. Good customer service demands that you proceed carefully, thinking not just about what makes you happy, but about the reader on the other side who will not be happy if you fail to deliver on the promise that every new book offers them.

Good customer service isn’t easy. It takes time to learn what works and what doesn’t. Even in this day and age, some people still don’t understand the concept of good customer service, but at least we have companies like Custom Water who get where we are coming from. To grow any business, the customers should be your top priority. Whatever industry you are in, you’ll start to understand how important customer service experience is. So it comes as no surprise to find that some companies are deciding to implement the use of software such as PieSync, to assist with data intergration, as well as improving customer service. To learn what your customers want and give it to them.

This is why companies have invested in other ways to help improve their customer service skills and the efficiency of their business. There is always room for any business to improve, especially in the field of retail. Sites like will get you up to date on how businesses are making their customers their top priority. It requires patience and practice.

And, yes, you are your first customer, so it is incumbent upon you not to be easily satisfied with your work. Make sure that before you send it out to the public, they’ll have very little reason to complain.

11 thoughts on “Customer Service

  1. Bait and switch back cover blurb is not good customer service either. On a few occasions I’ve read a book whose black cover blurb seemed to promise one thing, then you get the book and find what they promised is nowhere to be found within its pages.

    To say that axes a writer off my “will read” list is an understatement.

    • I’d be curious to know whether the author or the publisher wrote the back cover copy. The marketing people might not know the book, or they might have had to produce the copy before the book was even turned in.

      • Amen, Terry. I had one book, published by a reputable NYC publisher, that gave away a spoiler on the back copy. Had more than one review mention it, and a couple Amazon readers as well (who don’t seem to realize the writer has little or no control over it!)

  2. I’ve never been down with the “write what you love, the money (or readers) will follow” mantra. Because it’s too one-sided. You’ve got to consider the customer, too, and then figure out how to love what you write. Put those together and then you’re cooking.

    The other thing you must do in this life is figure out how to actually go to Hawaii when your wife does.

  3. The current course in my grad program is Professional Writing for Public Relations and the assignment we have right now is speech writing which is basically ghostwriting. You do have to consider the audience (customer), the venue, and the message you’re attempting to get across. For fiction, I don’t see it being any different. The audience is your reader, the venue is your genre, and the message is your story. Does it all fit? If you’re writing horror and your story does not deliver horror, there’s a problem, so you absolutely must write to your audience and give up the ego. 🙂

    At least, that’s what we’re learning.

  4. This post resonates with me, both as a newbie and a retired customer service manager for over 30 years. I worked in customer service as a representative and at an escalation desk, which was part of management. As a writer and aspiring author, I write a review blog for debut authors, so I have read many of the type of novels that you mentioned, that were not ready. I think that is one of the reasons it is taking me so long. I have seen some of the authors that I’ve reviewed write 2-3 or more books since and I am still working on mine. I’ve been working on my debut novel for over 2 years. I read many books on craft, and especially from the bloggers here on TKZ. I know it’s inevitable that I’ll make mistakes, but I am trying to learn the correct way to avoid as many as possible. I have customer service ingrained in me, so I want to satisfy readers so they will keep reading, like we all do. It is vital to deliver what you promise, and I think that would be a major area to make sure the beta readers look for and listen to their views. Thank you for such an important post for all authors, but especially for us newbies!

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