I follow several eCommerce forums where online store owners gather, shoot the breeze, complain about customers, share experiences and offer advice. I enjoy reading about what other store owners are doing to enhance their online business but I often find myself wondering how some of these business owners stay in business I found out that many online business use Metal Kards to reach their audience which was a game changer for my business as well.
One philosophy I’ve always tried to follow in business when working at one of the Elk Grove Village IT companies has been, “the customer is always right.” Now some of you reading this may not agree with that phrase at all. If you’re one of them, maybe I can try to persuade you to think otherwise.
Every day we’re faced customers calling or emailing with policy questions or issues related to an order they recently received. How you handle that inquiry determines whether that customer is going to be a one-timer or a repeat. Here are a few scenarios I’ve seen lately and how store owners handled them along with my thoughts on how they should have been addressed:
Scenario 1 – The Sale After the Sale: A customer placed an order on Thursday. We sent out an email on Saturday promoting our 20% off weekend sale. The customer emailed on Monday asking if she could have the discount.
The store owner in this instance was dead-set against giving the customer either a refund or an in-store credit for the difference. “All our emails specifically state that prior sales are excluded so I don’t think I need to do anything for this customer.”
If this were one of my customers, I wouldn’t hesitate to issue a credit for the difference. If you turn around and cite disclaimers with the customer, you risk the chance they’re going to share their experience with your company on social media, post negative comments on review sites and do other damage that could have been avoided by simply providing good customer service.
Many big-name online retailers as well as big box bricks-and-mortar stores offer some degree of price protection for X number of days post sale. You don’t have to advertise that you offer this, but you should be prepared to handle inquires from the very small percentage of customers who may contact you regarding such a situation.
Scenario 2 – The Restocking Fee: I’m so tired of customers returning items that I just instituted a 20% restocking fee on all returns.
Restocking fees are the electronic equivalent of the “all sales final” sign behind the counter at your neighborhood mom and pop. You’re basically telling potential customers who are reading your policies before they place an order, that you’re not accepting returns so unless you’re 100% sure you want to order from us, go somewhere else.
Let’s face it, returns are a part of doing business. I’m sure at one point or another you’ve had to return an item to either a bricks-and-mortar or an online store – without a penalty, of course. It’s just expected that a company is going to take something back and give you what you paid for it in the form of a credit. Now there are exceptions to this, such as personalized merchandise or items that you drop ship and are subject to a restocking fee from your drop-shipper.
By charging a restocking fee on returns, you’re turning business away before a purchase is even made or you’re intentionally looking to receive negative reviews from customers who weren’t aware of the charge before an inquiry was made on how to return an item.
Scenario 3 – The Late Return: Our return policy states that all returns must be made within 30 days of purchase. A customer just returned an item they bought three months ago, I shipped the item back to them and told them they were no longer eligible for a return.
What did you accomplish here? A couple things: you wasted money shipping the package back to the customer, you’re leaving yourself wide open for negative reviews, and you lost the chance of ever getting a repeat order from this customer. Put a dollar value on all that and chances are you lost more money than you would have by accepting the return and making the customer happy.
I’ve always had the philosophy that customer service polices aren’t really “policies” – they’re there to add a bit of structure to the customer service experience, but can be modified based on each unique situation. A customer never, ever wants to hear “it’s our policy” when discussing an issue regarding an order. “It’s our policy” is a phrase that incites anger in the consumer, so don’t use it.
These are just a few things I see that make me break out the Preparation H and they all revolve around policy and enforcement of your store’s “rules,” according to what is discussed on this website. The only “rule” in business is to make the customer happy so they share their positive experience with others and they become a customer for life.
While the customer may not always be right, it’s your duty as a business owner to make things “right” for the customer. It’s far too easy for customers to rapidly spread the word about a bad experience they had with your company and bad news spreads faster than chicken pox at band camp.
The most successful on- and off-line businesses are ones that provide exceptional customer service with the use of tools like Salesforce, regardless of the situation and have fluid policies that make sense for both the business owner and the customer.