Dealing with Complaints or When the relationship goes bad
As many of you will know I have been an avid supporter of Graphistudio for many years and have been an (over?!) active support of Graphistudio. My website is littered with links to their website and products. Over the past three years, however, I’ve toned down my support because I’ve seen the standards at Graphistudio slowly slipping as the company gets bigger, produces more albums and takes on more photographers.
I’ve mentioned this privately to senior management and have voiced concerns in the Closed Facebook page Graphistudio run.
With that in mind, I very recently decided to source a second wedding supplier, it’s good management of business risk, and to be honest I wanted to be able to differentiate myself from Graphistudio; who whilst producing amazing albums also seems that every photographer in the world uses them. I want my clients to stand out from the crowd.
I’m glad I did.
As of today, Friday 13th January 2017, I have been removed from the Graphistudio Facebook forum and will likely have my Trade Account with Graphistudio removed once my current orders are fulfilled. EDITED 1st March 2017. Trade Area / Account is still active. That is not Dealing with Complaints in an adult manner.
This is a great shame. for two reasons
1. My complaints have always been made privately, either via e-mail or in the closed Facebook forum.
2. No thought to the current album’s I have in design for current clients and those in the sign off stage for current clients. This lack of empathy towards my wedding clients is what disappoints me most about this behaviour.
To be removed with no warning, no communication etc is horrendous client management, especially from a client that averages £10,000 per year on albums over the 8 years I’ve been with them. I’m not the biggest spender, but I’m not the smallest either.
The image above is my open comment to the senior management of Graphistudio once I found out (via another individual who was also blocked and their account removed). I have had replies below that, but to preserve anonymity I’ve refrained from including the responses. If you are a company then dealing with complaints is part and parcel of life. Throwing them out of a closed group is childish in the extreme!
I have included below the response from the UK General Manager:
My Response to Jeremy and Graphistudio on Dealing with Complaints
Thank you for the response. I have taken my time to craft this post and stepped away from the emotion many times.
It leads me, and many others who have contacted me over my original post, with a few questions, however.
- Have I been removed from the Graphistudio forum because I complained about the quality of your service over the past several years? If so can you confirm that others who complained have also been removed and that it is the intention of Graphistudio to remove anybody who complains?
- I have acquired another supplier, and that is a sensible business option given the nature of the issues I have had with Graphistudio. There are also many others in the Graphistudio community who use several suppliers. Will you confirm that those have also been removed or will be removed from the Graphistudio community and that it is Graphistudio’s policy to only accept clients who use Graphistudio exclusively?
- You state the community is a support mechanism for your customs. Does that support not also include dealing with (in many cases very valid and serious) complaints, or is it more about an ego trip for those in the Graphistudio management? And yes, I was one other those “fanboys” until several years ago when, in my opinion, and that of others, the standards for Graphistudio slipped. I have commented as such to you privately.
- You have also failed to resolve whether my Trade Account will be kept open. I have albums in the design stage and at sign-off stage. Is it, therefore, Graphistudio’s wish to close my Trade Area and disappoint those customers because I and many others have raised valid complaints and issues once the current albums are fulfilled?
The last comment I made on the GS forum was in reply to another person, also removed and had their trade account closed, and was in response to a much wider thread and more serious complaint nature:
“I had an exact same response re “give them the album and take it back after Christmas” over a DMA I designed using Pearl Paper. Or rather not a DMA because it turns out that you can’t have raised varnish on Pearl Paper at all. I refunded the couple the cost of the album and let them keep it. Other silly errors, but equally as serious, over the past 18-24 months have led me to source a second album company”
Graphistudio’s response to the email complaint I made about that album was the final straw in my decision to source another company. That and silly little issues with albums / parent books etc, the issues over the incorrect invoice prices, incorrect or conflicting accounting from Graphistudio which led to my HMRC records being wrong, being overcharged, having to chase up refunds (took 5 months), being verbally harassed / intimidated and abused by the wife of a world famous Australian / Armenian photographer and finally going back to my first issues with customer service and Graphistudio back in 2010 when they removed money from my bank account with no authorization and no warning. I know I am not the only one with issues and complaints like this, some of them more serious.
The lack of real customer service, real empathy towards my clients is unbelievable. Good customer service is about making sure the client’s clients are happy, and never more so in the emotionally charged world of wedding photography.
As a side note, reprinting incorrect orders due to issues with Graphistudio’s internal process / QA system isn’t really customer service, it’s a legal obligation under EU legislation, UK consumer protection laws and Italian consumer protection laws.
Overall Jeremy I find that your response above (and in answering some of the complaints in the forums) and that of Graphistudio to be totally unprofessional and extreme, as has been noted by several people in the forums on several occasions. That is not how social media works. As yourself and other senior management within Graphistudio comment repeatedly it is how you deal with complaints that show how good a company is.
It seems to me, and many others, that in removing customers who complain in a CLOSED group from accessing your products to be childish and petulant behavior on behalf of the Chairman, Tullio Tramontina (if indeed he made the final decision), especially in light of no communication from anyone at Graphistudio – something that you keep telling your clients to do. Walking the Talk spring to mind?
I am very disappointed in the behaviour of Graphistudio in dealing with this and even more disappointed in the lack of empathy towards my wedding clients from a company that supposedly is there to support the industry.
Graphistudio produces excellent albums, there is no question about that, as do many other smaller companies. My issues lie with the declining customer service I’ve received from Graphistudio, and for voicing those valid complaints they have attempted to punish my wedding clients.
This move has been very apparent. Now, in 2017, year to date sales with Graphistudio are around £900. Same time frame last year they were over the £3k mark. I’ve produced the same number of albums, just not with this Italian company.
I, therefore, feel fully vindicated in my decision to source a second supplier.
To emphasise – this is not the way in dealing with complaints.
What makes it worse is that as time goes by and I chat to more photographers little issues about Graphistudio crop up again and again. More people have told me that a response to a wedding album wrongly printed before Christmas was “give it to the customer then take it off them after Christmas”. This was not just a few days short of Christmas, but plenty of time for Graphistudio to do a re-print. Financial accounting errors crop up again and again – this is not dealing with complaints in a professional manner. My own invoices were wrong, causing me to over pay. I know of several photographers who have had similar issues. The response from Graphi? Not the best or the most professional.
Actually – there’s more.
Yes. Incredible to believe but there is more about the customer service of Graphistudio dropping.
I still use them for the odd album, from older clients. One such client ordered an Original Wedding Book and was due for delivery in June, Cash on Delivery as per my usual method.
Album arrives but the packing invoice (the on on the outside of the box that UPS request) was for £580.30 so I duly wrote a cheque not thining to much. I opened the package and found the album had another invoice on it for £305.40. A difference of £274.90.
No paperwork to indicate why the difference. I’d had no emails. I’d had no telephone call about this extra request for money yet Graphistudio just chucked it in there!
I emailed Martin Baynes. Again –
I’ve just taken delivery of an album, order 958059 – OWB, Sarina & Bryan. The invoice on the trade area tells me it is £305.40. The invoice on the box says it is £305.40 but UPS had a note requesting £580.30.
This is a difference of £274.90. This was a COD order. I paid by cheque; Halifax Bank, Cheque Number 000375 made out to Graphistudio for £580.30 dated 5th June 2017
I’d like to know why the difference in prices? As this is a cheque I will be cancelling the cheque within 24 hours if I don’t get a suitable explanation from Graphistudio.
I’ve attached copies of the paper work for your notes.”
The reply from Martin Baynes–
So apparently Graphistudio sent an album out to me, that had “Cash On Delivery” via UPS but UPS didn’t ask for a cheque etc etc. I’ve NO issue in paying my for I need to pay for. None at all. But when I am asked all of a sudden to pay £274.90 with no supporting paperwork I need to question, seriously question, the financial and accounting aspects of Graphisstudio, not to mention the appaling customer service.
My response to Martin & Graphistudio –
No. This just isn’t on at all.
Order 915503 is from November 2016 and was delivered 21st November 2016. You cannot expect anyone to be comfortable with an amount being added to any invoice without any official notification of such, nor any proof from Graphistudio Accounts that the order was sent but no cheque requested etc. The invoice quite clearly states COD, so it is safe to assume, pending my investigations, that a cheque was given to UPS for delivery to be completed.
The cheque I wrote for Order 958059 (£580.30) will be cancelled pending official confirmation from Graphistudio of non-receipt of the cheque. I will also require proof from UPS (as they were contracted to Graphistudio for delivery) of non-receipt of the cheque from me when they delivered the album. I will instigate a check of my own bank account and cheque stubs to confirm Graphistudio wasn’t sent a cheque as indicated in your email below.
I will transfer the correct amount for Order 958059, minus any charges incurred at my end, via bank transfer.
In future, I expect any extra charges like this to be communicated well in advance with the required paper work to back up the request.”
I didn’t hear anything back so I duly cancelled the cheque (via Halifax Bank. Who were as surprised as I was at the request for an amount different to theat shown etc.) and informed Martin at Graphistudio about it. He told me he had passed my email along and had asked the billing department at Graphistudio to contact me. I didn’t actually transfer the money as I still wasn’t convinced that it was a genuine mistake from Grapgsitio. Not after the last lot of mistakes they had made.
This all happened in the first week of June.
Welcome to Nicole from Graphistudio.
A lady speaking excellent English called Nicole spoke to me from accounts at Graphistudio. Mid-July. 6 weeks after I cancelled the cheque and complained etc.
Basically, and to paraphrase the conversation it went something like this –
Nicole – “Hi, It’s Nicole from Graphistuio. You owe us £580.30”
Andrew – “Whcih albums are these from?”
Nicole -“One from November…”
Andrew – “All my albums are Cash on Delivery delivery after the last time you made mistakes with the invoices. UPS deliver the albums and require a cheque and signature. That was 8 months ago and you’re asking now?”
Nicole – “Getting confused. Can I call you back?”
Andrew – “Yes”
Nicole called back – “It was for xxxx and yyy album that was delivered at the same time as another order, that you paid for via PayPal. We forgot to request a cheque when we sent the album for xxx and yyy via UPS. We are not going to charge you for the bank charges at our end for the bounced cheque”
Andrew – “It didn’t bounce. It was cancelled. It was cancelled 8 weeks ago. I told the UK Sales Director Martin Baynes I had done this via email.”
Nicole – “We didn’t get that info. Martin told us he didn’t want anything to do with this case.” [Nice one Martin. And you wonder why I complained about the lack of customer service?!]
Andrew – “Not my issue. I cancelled the cheque and told you I had done so.”
Nicole – “We are not going to charge you for the bank charges…”
Andrew – “There were no charges at my end”
Nicole – “No I meant for us. Our bank charged us for the cheque.”
Andrew – “You shouldn’t have cashed the cheque in the first place. I told you 8 weeks ago I was cancelling it”
Nicole – “Ok, but were still not going to charge you”
Andrew, thinking – I wouldn’t bloody well pay anyway.
Andrew – “So you want me to send you a cheque for £580.30. Yes?”
Nicole – “Yes please”
Andrew – “I can’t believe that this actually happened. You didn’t bother to tell me about the extra, you just addedded it in. You attempted to cash a chequeh yet were told 8 weeks previous that I had cancelled it”
Nicole – “Yes, it should not have happened”
Andrew, thinking that’s the best apology I’m going to get – “Who do I sent the cheque to?”
Nicole – “Send it to me and I will oook out for it.” Nicole give me her full name
Cheque duly sent Air Mail via Royal Mail.