Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

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Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Customer service and originality problems...

I have been keeping my eye on a developing thread at a forum with a substantial membership and outside audience. A problem developed with a content transaction and the two parties have sort of taken the matter "public." Here's a brief summary of the situation.

The customer bought original/exclusive content from the writer and received it. He paid.

The customer was checking around and found one of the articles posted elsewhere. He had not yet released the content, so he knew there were problems on the writer's end.

The writer first said someone must have stolen it from the customer's site. After learning he had not yet released the article, she did some digging and learned that one of the writers to whom she had subcontracted work was responsible. Buyer claims he didn't even know a third party was involved.

The writer apologized. The buyer demanded a refund. The writer promises a refund but wants to reclaim rights to the articles.

There is, of course, more to the story. There are questions being raised about the level of responsibility accepted by the writer and whether or not she tried to change her story throughout the debacle, etc. Standard forum argument.

And, in my opinion, a great object lesson for content writers about using subcontractors and customer service.

When using subcontractors one must (among other things):

1. Fully explain expectations.
2. Choose quality writers.
3. Carefully edit all materials.
4. Check all materials with Copyscape and other anti-plagiarism methods.
5. Underline importance of meeting expectations and specifications.
6. Not send anything out until they know they can fully trust the writer and are satisfied with the quality of the work.
7. Explicitly advise customers in advance that a subcontractor may or will be used. Make sure the client is comfortable with that and how you handle it.

Taking that kind of perspective will reduce the number of problems one experiences. However, we are dealing with human beings and people are imperfect. Someone may, eventually screw things up for you, though.

That's when it is time to be a stand-up person and make things right.

If one my customers came to me with this complaint, the solution would be immediate:

1. Buyer keeps all materials.
2. Buyer gets an immediate 300% refund.
3. Relations with subcontractor are immediately severed.
4. Buyer is offered additional compensation in terms of a future credit toward content purchases.

I'd also do my damnedest to get my money back from the subcontractor and would not hesitate to take complete and utter responsibility for their sleazy actions. Every piece of work that leaves CDB represents me and I have to stand behind it as if it were my own.

The author in question has been busy enough to hire out work. She has quite a few customers, from what I can gather. I imagine she does a fine job. This is probably an anomoly. She might be so surprised by the whole thing that she's not sure how to handle it and that might be a source of some defensiveness. I have no reason to think she's corrupt or that she is not an absolutely stellar provider and this is just a fluke.

I am willing to wager that if she had quickly taken full responsibility and immediately made every effort to take responsibility for the matter and to solve it to the client's satisfaction nothing would have ever come of it.

Instead, a significant portion of her client base is probably thinking about looking for another content provider.

Writing is a first business for some, but most among us come from different backgrounds in a diversity of fields. All of us who have had experience "out there in the world" know just how essential quality control and customer service is to the success of any enterprise. We cannot forget that just because we have traded cubicles for home offices or business casual for shorts and a t-shirt.