When you’re a shopper, no matter what you’re shopping for, there will be times when you are dissatisfied and will need to know how to deal with customer service. Since I have had many years’ experience in the retail world, from department stores to specialty retail to grocery stores, I frequently am asked what to do when shopping and you’re not satisfied. There are practices that I advise, because remaining calm, honest, and professional will achieve results.
Recently, I had an issue when I purchased a can of shaving gel at my local drugstore (on sale and with a coupon, of course). I have been using this brand’s product for years and have always been satisfied with it. However, this time when I went to use it, for some reason the pump wasn’t dispensing any of the gel. After several attempts I was beginning to get annoyed, but I checked the can and found that there was a toll-free number to call for question or comments. I called the number and explained the situation to the representative. I mentioned the store and product and the fact that I have been a loyal customer of theirs for years. They took down my information, as well as a production code from the defective can, taking only a minute or two. Then they thanked me and said to promote goodwill, they were sending me coupons to make up for my inconvenience. True to their word, about a week later I received a nice letter from them and inside were two coupons for free product. Needless to say I was very satisfied with their response.
Whenever issues like these come up, here are my top ten tips for dealing with customer service and getting customer satisfaction:
- Know what it is you need or want in order to be satisfied! As simple as that sounds, too often someone will angrily vent their problem and never say exactly what will resolve the problem. Sometimes, it’s just an apology! If you state your issue calmly and clearly, you can achieve your desired result. Don’t give up when you deserve a proper resolution.
- Always know and follow the store or vendor’s return policy before you make any purchases. By law they must be posted and/or they default to a generous standard period which can vary by state.
- Speak with a decision-maker. Simply ask the person with whom you are talking, “who makes the decision regarding my complaint?” and seek them out.
- Use your customer loyalty as leverage. Keeping a loyal customer is far less expensive than getting new ones for a business or service.
- When making large purchases, never pay cash before you are completely satisfied. Down payments give you control if a problem arises, and credit cards enable you to obtain full refunds when legitimately contested.
- On smaller purchases, don’t just tolerate problems because of the low cost. Letting the store or manufacturer know about an issue is actually a help to them as they try to correct the problem. Usually, you will be thanked and rewarded in some way with complimentary items or coupons for free product with a simple phone call to a toll-free number.
- When you buy something, always save your receipts, boxes and packaging until you are sure the item(s) is what you want. Returning a purchase for full credit is much simpler when you have everything so the store can return or repackage/sell the item.
- Always complete the warranty information so you are protected and can obtain service and/or replacement.
- Put all agreements and contracts in writing, even if that’s e-mail. Keep copies in a safe location so you can refer to the agreement if problems occur. Take before and/or after photos with your phone or camera when applicable.
- Remember to start with a friendly disposition and give the store or vendor an opportunity to correct the problem. The old saying “you get more flies with honey than vinegar” truly applies in these cases.
Sometimes, you can follow all these tips and still not get a satisfactory response. Another recent instance when I was a dissatisfied customer was at a very popular restaurant chain where I was dining with my wife. On that particular evening, we had chosen the restaurant based on an advertised “happy hour”-type promotion on their corporate website. When we arrived the bar area was full with no seats available, but the restaurant had plenty of available seating. So we asked if they would allow us to sit at a regular table and still take advantage of the special pricing, and the host said that we could. We also heard other patrons at nearby tables asking about the same promotion. We dined and enjoyed, and then we got our bill. To our surprise, we were charged the regular prices on most of our items, for a difference of about $20. When I asked what happened, I was told that the promotional prices were only available in the bar area. I told the server about our interaction with the host, and he brought over the manager. I started in my friendly tone, explaining what had happened and that if we had received the correct information, we would have waited for a seat in the bar area. We even brought up their website on our phones to show the promotion and that it didn’t specify seating. The manager, who perhaps had been dealing with several other customers over the same issue, explained that they are a franchise and don’t always follow corporate. Her continued insistence that they wouldn’t honor the promotion had now become the center of our experience. Rather than trying to retain a loyal customer (as we dine at this location most often), all she could focus on was that $20 because we weren’t sitting in the right place. At this point, you need to stand up for yourself and be persistent. I did not act rudely, but my tone certainly changed from calm and friendly to firm and business-like. I reiterated how the staff had given us the wrong information, how the website promotion we expected to receive didn’t specify a location, that we were loyal customers and we wanted the promotional prices to be honored. After a few minutes of back and forth, she agreed and gave us the discount. I was a (mostly) satisfied customer and we have returned to that location since then, but not before telling friends and family about the experience we had.
So tell me, what experiences have you had as a dissatisfied customer dealing with customer service?