Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Written Customer Satisfaction Policies Can Make Customers Happier

Want Happier Customers? Lay Down The Law, Then Bend It

How far should you go to please customers? Of course you want to do everything reasonably possible. But are you duty-bound to please customers like these?

  • A woman bought a mountain bike, ran it into a tree, and bent up the front wheel like a pretzel. Six months later, she suddenly asked for a full refund because the brakes had "not stopped quickly enough." What do you do with a customer like that?

  • A man spilled pasta sauce on a shirt and the stains wouldn't come out in the laundry. The shirt's failure to come out clean, he estimated, was "a defect" and he demanded his money back at the store.

  • A man bought a $799 flat screen TV from a store that put that same model on sale a month later for $599. He demanded a $200 refund.

You might either agree or completely disagree with these kinds of demands, depending on your overall approach to the idea that the "customer is always right." But based on my observations of customer service issues over the years: Certain unreasonable customers will never become reasonable, even if you bend over backwards to please them.

In other words, you're not going to transform some buyers into great customers, no matter what you do. So you need to determine where to draw the line with respect to the customer's rights vs. your business needs. It is reasonable and fair to have it work on both sides. So in our three examples above, I might offer a discount on a new bike (or bike repair to replace the front wheel) and a new shirt, but not offer to replace it for free. For the TV, yep, I'd go ahead and provide the same sale price to that customer as I was now offering to others. A 30-60 day "price guarantee" policy is reasonable today in retail.

While it is always a good idea to have a set of customer satisfaction policies in place, you do also need to allow a degree of flexibility. A nice example of some good, written policies can be found on the website of the appliance retailer P.C. Richard:

  • P.C. Richard spells out delivery and installation procedures on the company website. There are different procedures for trash compactors, air conditioners, TVs, and other appliances, and each is spelled out in detail. The information lets customers know what to expect and gives the retailer support if unreasonable customer complaints arise.

  • P.C. Richard also provides detailed return policies on its website. Certain products can be returned within 20 days, for example, while other products cannot.

So consider setting policies down in writing, for your customers as well as your employees, but offer a little flexibility when it's called for as well.

Thanks to Diana Pohly / Step By Step Marketing / The Pohly Company


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