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A refund is not enough

Imagine a customer who bought a commodity product in the supermarket. Sadly it was way beyond the expiry date and smelt disgusting. It also was cheap, so why should the customer bother to complain? Too much of a hassle for most of us.

So if a customer complains about  cheap product we should be alarmed. A simple refund, though an easy and fast way to satisfy the customer at first may be the best way to lose this customer. Of course, if the product was faulty we must give a refund or replacement. But that will not be enough. Instead we need to ask ourselves why the customer did bother coming back to us and invested time into a complaint. Also we can safely assume that the customer is embarrased, because she complains about a cheap product and we might think she is poor enough to not afford throwing it away.

So why does the customer complain? Maybe it was not the first time this happened to her in this particular supermarket, meaning that is a much bigger problem than we might think. Maybe she just wants to make sure that it doesn’t happen to other customers as well. And we should be guided by the same thought. Every compaint is a chance for us to improve our products and our service. Don’t let that chance pass by just giving a cheap refund. Find out why the product was still on the shelves and fix the root cause. And let the customer know you did take action.

Or maybe the customer had bought that product to sweeten the evening of a particularly nasty day and instead the day got even worse. Maybe she wanted to bring it as a small gift to a friend who invited her for dinner and instead she felt embarassed in front of her friends. We owe her empathy and an sincere apology, don’t we? She will not be happy about a refund – the evening is history and history cannot be changed. She will want somebody who listens, understands her misery and makes her smile again.

In complaint handling always ask yourself: Why do your customers complain? What happened to them because of a faulty or just difficult to use product? Which pain did it cause you don’t know or you might not be able to fix?

This post was inspired by Seth Godin’s blog, always worth a look.

7. April 2015

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