Friday, November 23, 2012

The Complaint Department

I recently purchased a gift for my father's birthday.  The gift was a hard-to-find barbeque sauce that he had really enjoyed once but couldn't find in any grocery store.  So I looked it up and found it at an online food store. Or at least I thought so. What I actually found was a different variety that is made by same company; however, the picture they use in the product listing is for the sauce that I was looking for.  It was through a Google search that I found this similar but ultimately incorrect listing.   

It wasn't until weeks after my father's birthday that he told me I got the wrong sauce.  I contacted the company to share my experience but fully aware that there was likely little they could do.  Still, I wanted them to know I was thrown off by the incorrect picture and possibly get help locating the correct sauce.  I sent this email over a week ago and still have not heard back.

Naturally, any customer would be offended if any issue they care about is disregarded.  Initially, my feelings toward the store were not negative - I too made an error not reading carefully enough. But they certainly are now.

The company had a chance to make a positive impression out of a less than positive first experience and yet they didn't take it. 

Companies don't always get that opportunity either.  Although customer service can often feel like the complaint department, customers don't always give them the opportunity to right a wrong because it's in our nature to silently walk away from the problem.

Despite knowing this, most businesses strangely never take the opportunity to follow up with their customers, instead choosing to dedicate significant resources to passive service departments that wind up stalling/ignoring/pushing back on customer complaints.  This becomes instinctual when service agents must endure a beating from angry customers all day.  Yet, most companies refuse to seek out feedback from customers, possibly because they're afraid of generating more complaints.

Oddly enough, the practice of following up with a customer will immediately alter their feelings toward you in a positive way because your brand demonstrates that it actually cares.  Thus, customer service is transformed into an active marketing activity.

I'm particularly surprised that this isn't common marketing practice for smaller brands.  A genuine follow up is easier for a small brand with fewer customers than a larger one with a lot of customers.  Following up is an obvious strategic advantage they could have over a brand with more customers than they could count but I rarely see this being taken full advantage of.      

Finally, a few more simple complaint department tips in no particular order.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be prompt with your response.  
  • If you don't have an answer, tell them your working on getting one and will reply immediately.
  • Listen carefully and confirm what you are told.
  • When their is a problem, immediately establish what will make a difference to the customer.
  • For web-based brands, don't expect a lousy FAQ page to do all the work.
  • Similarly for others, don't expect fine print to be read and/or remembered.
  • Show customers that you care by serving in ways they won't expect or are use to.    
Feel free to add to this list as you see fit. Thank you for your attention and generosity in sharing the things you enjoy from this blog.   

No comments: