Customer Communication is Not for Yahoos

On June 9, 2009, in Doing It Wrong, by Rob Levandowski

I wanted to give Pilot Pens some feedback about their G2 pen line.  I like the pens—unlike recent UniBall gel pens, the Pilot G2 doesn’t suddenly stop writing for no apparent reason despite having plenty of ink—except for one small flaw.  The rubber finger-grip area has two small nubs from the molding process, and they’re usually just prominent enough to be annoying.  Nothing that can’t be fixed with a knife in short order, but if Pilot could improve that part of their manufacturing process, it’d be an even better pen.

Good: They have a customer feedback form on their website.  It even lets you fill in all the blanks with the keyboard, instead of being forced to pick up the mouse to select your state.

Bad: Sending in a message via the form gets this reply…

From: To: (omitted) Subject: failure notice  Hi. This is the qmail-send program at I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses. This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.   <>: failed after I sent the message. Remote host said: 554 delivery error: dd Sorry your message to  cannot be delivered. This account has been disabled or discontinued [#102].  -

Worse: Immediately following up that message with

To: (omitted) Subject: Customer Submission From: Pilot Pen <> X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.73]   Your email has been received and will be responded to shortly Please note our new contact information:  Pilot Consumer Service  3855 Regent Blvd. Jacksonville, FL  32224 Tel. (904) 645 - 9999 Fax (904) 966 - 2974 Sincerely, Your Friends at Pilot Pen

I’m not sure what the worst part of this interaction is:

  • Using Yahoo! Mail for your customer service account after going to the trouble to buy a domain name, especially when you’re an international manufacturing company;
  • Sending an automated message from a third domain ( that sounds more like spam than legitimate mail from a commercial interest;
  • Telling someone who e-mailed you at the contact link you set up that they should write, call, or FAX you instead;
  • Not testing your customer feedback mechanism occasionally to discover it’s massively broken.

The experience sure made me feel less warm and fuzzy about Pilot Pens.


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