Friday, July 27, 2012

The ins and outs of good customer service

Companies rely heavily on their customer service to keep clients happy and returning. This is especially true with online retailers of fashion and shoes. These items are only useful if they fit properly and since all bodies and feet are different, returns and exchanges are inevitable. How these are handled can make or break a company. Some companies truly excel at customer service and others downright suck. In college, I worked for a major long distance carrier in their inbound customer service department. I was the poor schmuck on the other end of the phone when you called because you didn't know you had to pay $.05 a minute to talk to Aunt Clara. While my doctor made me quit the job after 6 months, I did learn a few things in the process.

In a perfect world, you would never have to contact customer service because everything would just be gravy all the time. Since, that's not the case, there are a few things that will make your experience better when you do have to contact them.

  • Be pleasant. You really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. A simple "How are you?" or "Thank you" can go a long way. If you do these simple things, you'll be a breath of fresh air for the agent and she'll be much more likely to give you the outcome you seek.
  • State your issue clearly. Don't beat around the bush. Most customer service agent have call time goals they are required to meet, so they don't want to spend anymore time on the call than absolutely necessary. If you waste their time, they'll get short and snippy with you.
  •  If the issue is a defect, be prepared to send pictures by email. It's good idea to take these pictures for your records, anyways. They're not requiring it to be mean or make it hard, they're doing it because someone before you took advantage of their system. Blame them, not the poor agent on the other end of the phone.
  • Don't be unreasonable. The shoes don't fit? It's okay to ask for a full refund. It's not okay to ask for a full refund and an additional account discount or credit. They have no way of guaranteeing that their shoes will fit your tingers/sausage toes/wide feet/narrow feet/etc., and they don't owe you for that. Don't be a greedy disgrace to shoemanity - I will revoke your shopaholic card. Seriously. I'm not kidding. The same goes for any merchandise, really.
  • If all these tips don't get you a satisfactory (within reason) resolution, then go after their social media pages. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are all very public ways of blasting them. Most modern companies at least monitor those pages and do NOT like there to be unresolved negative issues there. 
As for the companies, I've got some tips for them too:
  • Exchanges should always be free. Always. No exceptions. If you can't provide that service, then you are not ready for prime time. Close the doors and go home. 
  • If the item is defective, you should pay return shipping and offer a full refund without even being asked. If the customer wants an exchange - express ship it immediately. Don't make them wait. This is the only way you're going to redeem yourself on this one.
  • Listen to the customer. Make them at least think that you care. If you sound distant it'll piss them off and make your life harder.
  • If a customer is a constant pain in the @$$ and complainer, nothing you can do will make them happy. Cut your losses and tell them to pound sand. The customer is not always right. You are a business - your only objective is to make money. If they're not providing money instead of losses, then they aren't worth it. You can't please all the people all the time so don't waste your time.
  • Most pleasant. Again, more flies with honey instead of vinegar and all that. There's few things that irritate me more than a pissy CS agent. If I want to reach through the phone and choke you, I'm gonna be that much more of a royal pain.
If all customers and customer service agents followed this advice, the world of shopping would be so much more pleasant. But we won't follow this advice. We're a nation of impulse and want. We're impatient and needy - on both sides. But if we just tried we'd all be amazed.

Can't we all just get along?

Footnote: I wrote this shortly after the AMIClubwear fiasco linked to above and forgot to post it. I think it all stands true, though.

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