Before I begin, I would like to stress that I am a huge supporter of black entrepreneurs and black-owned businesses. I collect artwork from African-American artists, I purchase books from self-published authors of color, i’ve ordered hair care products from black entrepreneurs, and the list goes on.
Among other reasons, many African-Americans are switching to services and businesses ran by our own due to the mistreatment some receive from non-blacks.
For that reason many are flocking where we’re accepted. However, not everything is peachy with the black-owned business. Yes, we’re accepted, and no, we don’t have to worry about racial profiling, but there’s one issue that black entrepreneurs and freelancers must correct and improve upon: Customer Service Skills.
9 times out of 10, customer service skills and professionalism are lacking and it’s crucial when dealing with customer complaints or issues. It’s not professional to go from 0 to 100 and to lash out at the people who help fund your business.
For instance, on Facebook, Ive witnessed a start-up black-owned business, specializing in apparel, curtains, and backpacks, block a relative of mine and others after merely commenting their concern of receiving the wrong order or asking questions about an existing order. I even read a comment where someone suggested the entrepreneur who ran the business page, to hire a public relations or customer relations employee because she was turning off potential customers with her attitude and responses to their questions.
However, she’s not the only entrepreneur i’ve witnessed or heard about exhibiting unprofessionalism. ( See article: Black businesses and customer service: Our critical success factor , watch I don’t support African American businesses!!) I, too, am also fed up with the lack of customer care. One of the few black graphic designers I hired to create 3 book covers for me, did not deliver within the turnaound time promised. In fact, two of the covers were completed weeks after and the third was never delivered although I had paid for it. When asked for a refund for the third cover (I wasn’t willing to wait another few weeks when other graphic designers deliver within 24 hours), I was always given the runaround about issues her paypal was having with issuing my refund. That was 2017 and I never did receive that refund.
Within a month, I have done business with two black-owned business that left a bad taste in my mouth. One entrepreneur stopped responding to my calls and messages after filing my taxes after I asked for a copy of my filed taxes, which I somehow never received (Yes, I filed my taxes late this year). The very first time I called, she assured me she would email it right away (I live 4 1/2 hours away and desperately needed it to complete my financial aid). She never sent it. I let 2 days pass and I still hadn’t heard anything so I sent her a text, to which she texted back her business number for me to call. I called the number multiple times and the voicemail would pick up. I left a message on her voicemail and still nothing. I waited a day for her to return my call and did not receive any communication back. Finally I contacted the IRS to have a copy mailed to me. To this day, I still have not heard back from this woman or any of her business partners, nor do I know why she is holding my document hostage. I filed my taxes in June, so it’s not like she’s swamped with other tax customers, although she does have other services she specializes in.
I can’t help wondering do we only treat our own kind this way? Would those same entreprenuers provide a service of such low caliber to non-black customers???
The latest disaster with a BOB, that inspired this rant, is my disappointing encounter with organizers for a popular Atlanta bookfest for black authors. I’ll spare you all the details. Long story short, my books were to be displayed at the bookfest and after paying 80 bucks to have them printed and shipped, the post office emailed me to let me know that the address was wrong and that the box of books were sitting at some post office in GA awaiting pick up. Turns out, the address that was listed on their website was wrong. They admitted it via email, and gave me the correct address. I’m not going to lie, I was very upset. Especially because there was no apology or empathy on their part. When I asked what should I do, since I don’t live in GA and therefore cannot pick up the box, they didn’t reply. I called the number to the post office and was told that they could not change an address on a package. The package would be sent back to sender after 10 days. By then, the bookfest would be over. I emailed the organizer(s) again to ask for a refund on the small fee I had paid to have my books displayed and was promptly emailed 2 sentences back asking for my paypal info and stating that my refund would be issued by the end of the business day. It is now days later and I still have not received a refund nor have I heard anything back. I’m angry because I wasted 80 bucks and they showed absolutely no compassion, regret, or care for their error. Tired of waiting for the refund, I finally contacted my bank to file a dispute. (Update 8/19/19..I received an email after the event stating that my books had been picked up and were on display for the event 🙄)
I also paid a fee for two of my books to be sold on their online African-American bookshop. This is a service I had been receiving numerous emails and DMs on IG about. On July 3rd I finally decided to go on ahead and pay the fee to have my books added. It has yet to be added. When I emailed a couple of days ago to ask about the status, I was told they needed my books’ IBSNs (was anyone every gonna contact me to ask?) I emailed them back within a half an hour with the information and have not heard anything, nor were either of the two books added. They did not provide a turnaround time but their website stated having the products added to their site was quick and simple. I will not file a dispute with my bank for this issue because I have not asked them to cancel the service or asked for a refund. I always try to follow protocol first. I’ve decided to give them a couple of more weeks before asking for a refund if they don’t follow through with their end of the service.
All in all, I couldn’t help feeling like I was a nuisance, instead of a customer with an issue.
THIS IS NOT A CALL TO ACTION TO ABANDON
This is a call to action for freelancers and black entrepreneurs to invest in learning customer service skills or hiring customer care professionals! To them I say: i’m sure you don’t accept nor expect anything less when you’re a customer. This has even helped me to open my eyes as a freelance writer myself. Please remember that customers do have a choice as to where and who they spend their hard-earned money with.
Below, I have a couple of links for anyone who has become exasperated, like I have, with dealing with the below par work ethics. Hopefully, it’ll help convince you to give other black-owned businesses a shot.
Do you agree or disagree? Comment below.