I’ve just spent the last half an hour reading this thread on the Idealog website: http://www.idealog.co.nz/blog/2013/01/calling-next-jan-cameron. Forget Shortland Street – this thread has all the drama, witty one-liners (“I would’ve been better off sheltering underneath a cocktail umbrella”) and scathing attacks you could ask for! Not only was it an entertaining read, it also brilliantly illustrates three prime business lessons:
1. You’re a fool if you don’t listen to your customers. The customer is always right, the customer deserves respect,the customer should never be talked down to or talked to like an idiot. In this thread, numerous contributors outlined their experience with faulty goods – boots failing, tents breaking, packs wearing out and so on – but what was it that really riled them up? The way they were treated when they tried to return these faulty goods. If the shop assistants had been kinder, more open to listening, less defensive and patronising and, overall, wait for it, helpful, perhaps there wouldn’t have been so much disappointment seeping through the thread. It’s hard to stay angry at a friend or family member who has let you down but who then sincerely apologises for their actions and takes full responsibility – same goes for business. Customers will generally forgive you for the inconvenience of a faulty product if you respond well. If the faulty good is your fault (or even if it’s not, really), take it on the chin: apologise and then go about making it right. In a nutshell, treat all customers like they’re your mother (if you like your mother, that is). Be nice, be helpful , take responsibility and go the extra mile.
2. Be prepared to stand by your choice in product quality. I’ll do a specific blog on this in the next few weeks, but to put it simply, you need to be able to stand by the level of quality you choose for your brand. At the end of the day, the quality you choose will basically define your company and your brand. Make sure you’re happy with what it says about you, and who your resulting customers will be.
3. Social media is loud (and I’m lumping forums into this category too). In the past, disgruntled people may have moaned about bad service to thirteen people in their network – now, the world is their audience. One contributor to the thread summed it up perfectly when he wrote, “This whole thread has been a textbook example of how things can go tragically (?) wrong for company reputation as word-of-mouth has shifted almost entirely online. No more chats in huts or on tracks, I assume most of us are sitting at PC/Laptop/Tablets or smartphones having this conversation. If you’re like me, you’ve shared it hither and yon too.”
And to the embattled retailer who this post was about, give me a call – I can help you sort out your customer service and get your brand on top again! firstname.lastname@example.org for Auckland-based business coaching, planning and advice!