I AM NOT NEARLY DONE WITH THIS SUBJECT, UNTIL CUSTOMERS BEGIN TO HAVE SMILING satisfactory experiences from services rendered to them. I know how hard these customers work to make a living. It is disheartening to see them part with these hard earned cash for shabby or shoddy services.
On the other hand, sometimes, the customers also do not know how hard the service providers work to make the services available. One might argue that, that is the service provider’s business. That customers deserve to be treated right all the time. That may be a hard call sometimes. We need to be fair and considerate sometimes.
I was in traffic yesterday, and I saw a young lady who was pricing “bolee” (bolee is roasted plantain. It is sold by the road side along some major roads in Lagos Metropolis). with groundnuts. I could tell she was very hungry. I could tell she did not have much money, but she wanted lunch, anyway. She must have priced the bolee ridiculously low, because the next thing was the bolee seller berated the young lady and was asking her in a very loud tone how she expected the bolee to be sell for such a ridiculous amount? She started enumerating her various production costs, transportation to and from the market, the coal she was using to roast the plantain, the money she had paid to the local council to let her hawk by the road side and the heat from the sun?. When she was through with her “customer” the customer walked away embarrassed. Of course she did not buy the bolee, because she could not afford it and she was insulted for such ridiculous pricing.
Happy Customer; Profitable Business…
The success of all businesses lie in how happy the customers are to part with their hard earned money, to want the service again and to recommend the same services to their friends, colleagues and associates. I bought a smartphone from a retail phone seller sometime in 2002. The dealer confessed to me once that all the customers I introduced him to back then were still ordering smartphones from him to date and they had even referred him to several other new customers. This he said made his marketing minimal because of the number of reversals he’s had since 2002 from me.
Sometimes, the service provider isn’t aware that the customers were not delighted by the delivered services. The customers also may not want to offend the service provider by giving negative remarks to avoid being shouted at like the bolee customer or to be embarrassed because sometimes, service providers heap their frustrations on customers who price their items below cost price. Also the service provider may be thinking of their overheads and how to quickly grab the money from the customers, to pay their own bills that have since fallen due.
Feedback channels are very important to the business and the service provider must accept constructive feedbacks and criticism by providing exactly the services the customers are going to be delighted by and not just what the service provider thinks the customers would want. This helps customers’ retention and eventually increased market share, as a happy customer makes a profitable business.
Business owners, service providers must also not assume that since the customers did not make a remark to give a feedback and are indifferent, that it is okay to take their money quickly and tell them there is no refund whether or not they liked the services. Sometimes customers are even very scared to buy items, because once they have made any mistake in choice they have to wrestle the seller of the items for their money back. Especially if payment is by PoS. Sometimes the customer is told it would take 7 working days or more to get a refund. The customer is stuck, either has to take the item paid for or risk waiting so many days for a refund that sometimes come with some charges.
The service providers must be willing to add value to the customers apart from the sold item. What the service provider is selling most times is not the item, it is more the experience the customer gets that is being sold. They just must delight these customers to earn their trust and make them pay for these services. Service providers should connect with their customers at all costs even through social media for interactions now and again on the services delivered even when they do not get feedback. Customers are often very lazy to give feedback. When they don’t it sometimes means the service was good, fair or okay. Customers loath those feedback survey forms. If they can be simplified to make it easy for a customer to be done in a few click or ticks, more feedbacks would come in.
I saw a very interesting feedback strategy by Target. On the flip side of the receipt of the item I purchased, they asked me to go to a website by clicking a link and that if I completed the survey within minutes, I would earn $5. The $5 was not given cash, it could be used as a voucher to buy anything from a food court. Of course that caught my attention and I completed the survey earned the $5 and bought some chicken wraps with the money. Service providers must be inventive to get feedbacks from their customers. That would help them build and improve their services and their brands.
Handling Customers’ Complaints
Several service providers have taken complaint handling for granted. Most organizations, companies and or service providers do not even have complaint handling as a job description in their sphere of duties. They allow anyone in the organization whether sales, marketing, customer care store keeper to attempt complaint handling.
This, most times has infuriated the customers the more because clearly, a sales person or marketing person or customer care would want to defend their product or services delivered and so cannot hear the complaint and or will not make any good attempt at resolution. This is because some organizations penalize the staff, if they concede that the customer was right or even suggest a refund or replacement of the item. Some staff do not even have any mandate to proffer solutions to the complaints. They go round in circles and the annoyed and frustrated customer ends up speaking to a third party. Depending on the seriousness of the complaint it could become a contingent liability to the company.
Imagine a customer driving out a brand new car from a car shop and 20 kilometers down the road the car malfunctions and the customer drives it back to complain to the sale desk. The sales officer tries to see that the car is okay, the best way possible, if the customer wants a replacement, of course you know that’s beyond powers of the sales team. The sales officer might look for his manager, who also may not have the powers to approve a replacement.
The customer is frustrated and angry, having just paid so much money for a “defective car” and wants a replacement or money back. If the CEO happens to be walking by, it must be the customer’s lucky day, because the CEO would approve the replacement with a smile and apology. If this is not the case, the customer can be as angry as a red iron, the sales manager cannot help. If the customer junks the car at the shop, that is the customer’s problem, and within a week the car company is slammed with a law suit, they just refer the matter to their lawyers to go and waste as much time in court as possible and look for technicalities to throw away the suit. In some cases even see how to compromise the system to ensure they do not pay compensation or damages for selling defective product.
Is Complaint handling a distraction?
Let’s admit it, no company or organization was set up to handle complaints. They were set up to render services, market and sell goods for which they make profits. Indeed the company would be crunching the calculators on the difference between cost and sales price and how to quickly turn around the stock for replacement. So, it becomes a distraction when customers lodge complaints and the organization has no clue on how to go about resolving the complaint.
I recall buying honey from a dealer once. The feedback I gave was that each time i used the honey for my coffee with cream it seemed like a hurricane was brewing in my mug. The coffee became so cloudy and stormy just by the sight of it. I would not be able to drink the coffee. I took a snap shot of the stormy coffee in the mug and sent to the honey seller. The response I got was that she’s using the same honey for her tea and coffee and she was not getting that same reaction, so she didn’t know where my own honey came from. Of course you know that would be the last time I purchased that brand of honey.
- Organizations need to know that complaint handling/ complaint resolution is a big part of service delivery to the customers.
- It is only a well trained Customers’ Ombudsman that is skillful at handling the complaints from the customers.
- Customer Care, Legal, Marketing & Sales Officers can all be trained to become Customers’ Ombudsmen/women.
- Effective complaint handling does not distract the service provider from the services being delivered.
- The Customers’ Ombudsman obtains learning points/ feedback from the customers and it is used to positively to improve on products, goods and services.