No Phone Number?
Not an easy decision for us. Here is the truth about our phone policy.
Perhaps two or three times each week, I receive an email from a customer who wants to know why I do not offer phone support or sales. The short answer is that we are very small company and on most days we barely manage to get everything done before we head home for dinner. The challenge of running a small business for a husband and wife team is that our resources are very limited. One of those limited resources is time and this forced us to make some difficult decisions about the way we spent our time here in the warehouse.
You'll find some common questions about our phone situation below. Some people will find my answers humorous and unfortunately a few people will find the comments angering but everything I've written here is true and of course, it is never my intention to upset or offend anyone.
Why not just hire someone and have a 'phone order only' line?
That sounds great and I tried it for over a year. When I offered the phone ordering line, I tried to make it clear that it was for orders only. The problem is that most customers wrote down that phone number for future use but did not write that the number was for orders only. A week after placing the order, these customers would call and ask questions about their orders. If I suggested that they email the questions to me instead, it seemed as if I didn't want to help and they were frustrated. That's not how I want our customers to feel about our business.
Seriously, what the heck is your problem with taking a phone call?
When we did offer a phone line, it became the "teach me to veneer over the phone" line. As you can imagine, there is really no way to teach veneering over the phone. Even the easy questions took a lot of time to explain and by the middle of the day, I found myself with more work to do than I could handle.
A small part of the problem here is that it takes a lot longer to answer these questions over the phone than it does for me to send a person an email with a link to any one of the extensive articles that I've written on the JoeWoodworker website. And that is the larger part of the problem. I can give you a lot more information through my website than I can over the phone. It's the "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day" idea. I'd rather "teach a man to fish" so he can eat for a lifetime. I can do this by sending you a link to an article that not only answers your veneering questions but also gives you insight into other aspects of the craft.
Do you know that you are losing money by not offering phone support?
That would bother me if my prime concern was profit. However, I'm motivated by a sense of accomplishment. I can accomplish a lot more each day by answering questions through email than by phone. I'm not sure how much of an impact the phone issue has on our business sales but I do know that if I were to hire a staff of people to do all the things that Christine and I do throughout the day, that it would force us to raise prices to cover the labor costs.
Can you call me instead?
Since I spend so much time in the warehouse, I'm rarely near a phone. However, my email program is always running when I'm back in the warehouse. If you email me your question, I can theoretically get you an answer faster than via phone. You'll have to trust me on this.
I also want to point out that I often answer emails from home after dinner and on weekends. So if you have a question on Saturday afternoon, you could have an answer from me by Saturday evening if you sent an email. The alternative would be to leave a voice mail message if we offered phone support. And in that case, you might not get a reply until sometime on Monday.
I won't put my credit card on the Internet. Why can't I just call you with my order?
We have no way to process a credit card without using the Internet. We would have to run your order through our website software (as many other companies do). So in this case, if you are concerned about your information being on the Internet, a phone order would be of no use. Additionally, there are certain terms and conditions that you agree to when you order with us. It would be impossible for me to list out these terms over the phone. If I did, you would get bored very quickly and I'd probably lose my voice.
If you won't accept a phone order, I'll just call Darryl at Vacuum Pressing Systems.
I understand and I wish I could help but the good news is that Darryl has a great line of products. I have a ton of respect for Darryl and though I don't know him personally, I have heard only good things about him and his products. Indeed I'm disppointed that our phone policy doesn't make us a perfect match for every customer but Christine and I do our best to help as many people as possible with quick shipping, prompt customer support by email, and reasonable prices.
What are you hiding from?
I've reconsidered the phone policy countless times and I've lost a lot of sleep over it. I've extensively looked for ways to remedy this situation and the conclusion is always the same. I think the hundreds of testimonials and product reviews on our website speak to the fact that I'm not hiding from anything and that I'm doing the best I can by offering polite, genuine, and helpful replies via email.
You claim to have answered tens of thousands of emails. How is that possible?
I have answered an awful lot of emails each day for the last 11 years. On February 16th, 2015 I had a personal record of answering 133 emails from 7:00 am until 10:00 pm that night. I have no way to prove it but then again I have no reason to lie about it. If you don't believe it, put me to the test by sending me an email question to see how quickly I can reply.
I bet you only answer questions if you know it will make a sale, right?
I have no idea if the person sending the email is planning to make a purchase and to me it doesn't matter. I've answered hundreds of emails by suggesting other places to find veneers and veneering supplies when a potential customer is looking for something I don't have. Darryl Keil at VPS, Dave Bilger at B&B Rarewoods, Peter at Oak Wood Veneer Company and several others can attest to this. There are many times when I don't have an answer to a veneering question but I always reply with honesty. When I don't have a veneering answer, I usually recommend that the sender post his question on the forum at SawMillCreek.org. Again, test me by sending a question.
You call yourself a Christian and yet you can't take a moment to answer the phone?
Really... the guy who sent me this comment/question was just being ridiculous but I still replied. Here is what I wrote back. "My wife and I are Christians. I was hesitant to put this information on the JoeWoodworker website because it is, of course, very personal. I thought it might help me connect to other Christian woodworkers. The fact that I can not offer phone support (though I have tried) is in no way a reflection of my faith."