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Dr. Victoria van der Walt has to decide how to handle acomplaint letter from a customer. When she received the letter, shepassed it along to Paul Zimbalist, the firm’s customer ser- vicemanager, to get his recommendation. Now van der Walt has a replyfrom Zimbalist, and she must decide how to re- spond to thecustomer and determine if changes are needed in her company’scustomer service operations. Dr. van der Walt has a reputation as ahealth and nutrition guru. Her fame grew after she published twobooks—both of which were very popular and received a lot ofattention in the press. Five years ago, Internet entrepreneur TaniaCox ap- proached her with the idea of creating a website to sellcustom vitamins under Dr. Victoria’s name. Van Der Walt and Coxbecame partners, and the business enjoyed success in its first fouryears of operation. Cox handles the website technology, inventory,production, and shipping. Dr. van der Walt is the health expert,creates content provided on the website, and is in charge ofmarketing and customer service. The complaint letter and reply fromZimbalist follow: Dear Dr. van der Walt, I am a longtime fan of your books and like to visit your websitefor health tips. As a new grandmother, my health is even moreimportant to me. I want to see my grandchildren graduate from highschool, go to college, and have kids of their own. You have made me a bit of a guru as well. I work out every day.People always ask me how I stay so fit and healthy. Hav- ing readboth your books, I tell them they should exercise regularly andtake vitamins and supplements for long-term health. I alwaysrecommend your DrV.com website and espe- cially the section on yourcustom vitamins. That is my favorite part of your website. I reallylike that you take information about me and my medical history—andthen recommend cus- tom vitamins and supplements. I also like howyou send me packages that each contain a daily dose. But after my recent experiences, my loyalty to you and yourcompany is now in jeopardy. Here is my story. Six months ago, I went to the website to reorder my vita- minsand supplements. The home page announced a new and improved healthsurvey and custom health program. So I went through the survey andfilled out all the details—it would have been nice if you had savedsome of them from my previ- ous survey. At the end of the surveythe website offered me a 90-day supply of a custom set of vitaminsand supplements selected for my specific needs. The $212 price wasabout $50 more than my previous 90-day supply, but I trusted yourad- vice so I placed the order. About two-and-a-half months later, I phoned your 800 number forDrV.com to place a refill order. The person on the phone was verynice and asked if I wanted to set up automatic refills. I said nobecause I hate those automatic programs. They remind me of thosebook clubs that automatically send you books you don’t want if youdo not reply fast enough. About a week later my order arrived—thentwo days later another iden- tical order arrived. I did notunderstand this, but I figured I would eventually use them up and Ikept everything (and I was billed for both orders—$424 on my creditcard). I should men- tion there was no e-mail explaining thismystery delivery. I was a little annoyed and sent an e-mail tocustomer service seeking an explanation. I received an automatedresponse, “Thank you for your inquiry; someone will get back to youwithin 24 hours.” No one ever replied, but I forgot about it. Then two weeks ago I received an e-mail from DrV.com telling memy refill order had been shipped and would arrive in a few days.But I did not place a refill order! I did not even need morevitamins because I was still working off the two 90-day suppliesthat I received three months ago. So I replied by e-mail that I didnot want the order and to cancel it. A reply e-mail (from Sally)told me that I had signed up for automatic refill six months ago. Ireplied that I certainly had not and that I would not pay for theorder that was being sent. A few days later I received a call from Paul Zimbalist, yourdirector of customer service. He told me that I had originallysigned up for automatic refill and that was why I received vita-mins. I told him that was impossible, and he told me that unless Ichecked some box on my original order that this was done au-tomatically, “for my convenience.” He said there were also sev-eral warnings and that I must have missed those.
Basically, Ithink he told me this was my fault. I did not like that onebit!!! Mr. Zimbalist told me the vitamins were on their way, but Icould refuse delivery of them. He offered to let me have them for20 percent off if I simply kept them. Unfortunately, the vitaminswere on my doorstep when I arrived home that day. I had to take thevitamins to UPS to get them shipped back to you. You guys are no longer very good at your business. You mighthave a great product, but I am now seeing other vitamin companiesoffering the same products. I have no doubt these other companiesoffer better customer service. If you want me back as a customer, Iwould expect a formal apology from Mr. Zimbalist and a free 90-daysupply. Otherwise, I figure my business will be welcomed at one ofyour competitors. I will be sure all my friends know about myexperience at DrV.com, and I intend to post a bad review atresellerratings.com, too. Sincerely, Maxine Slezak Next is the reply that Paul Zimbalist sent to Dr. van der Waltconcerning Maxine Slezak’s letter. Dear Victoria, As per your request, I reviewed Mrs. Slezak’s order history.Yes, she is a very good customer who spent almost $800 with us lastyear. And she is a member of our referral program— and we can countat least seven new customers she has directed to us in the last 18months. But I want to clarify some of this particularsituation. I do not recommend giving her a free90-day supply. This may simply encourage her to complain again inthe future. Besides, this was not our mistake. We may be better offwith- out certain customers—and I think Mrs. Slezak falls into thiscategory. Feel free to call me if you have anymore questions. Paul
Assess the customer serviceoperations at DrV.com. What should van der Walt do about Mrs.Slezak? What changes, if any, should van der Walt make to customerservice and order- ing operations? Use the SWOT method. Attached