- Player: Basil O’Hagan
- Companies: O’Hagan’s, The Brazen Head, Basil O’Hagan Marketing
- Contact: www.bohmarketing.co.za
A customer complaint is never a fun thing to deal with. Especially as you probably know exactly what went wrong. If only you could explain to your customer why things happened that way. It’s not all your fault. You want to say something in your defence. But rather don’t.
A customer complaint is not the time for long-winded explanations or — worse — an argument about who’s right and who’s wrong. Try to follow this script:
- “I understand.” Make it clear that you hear what your customer is saying and that you understand the problem.
- “I’m sorry that happened.” Apologise and empathise with their experience. Nobody likes to find their car’s lights were left on and their battery is flat, for example.
- “It’s not up to our usual standards.” Acknowledge that this is not acceptable in your establishment.
- “Let me make it up to you.” Here is where you compensate your customer for their inconvenience by offering extra value.
This four-stage script is worth committing to memory. It is a tried-and-trusted way to manage a complaint and a recognised method of converting an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.
Be in the moment
When serving your customers, serve them totally and wholeheartedly. Be present physically and psychologically. Be mindful. Nothing annoys customers more than being served half-heartedly by someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere. It shows disrespect.
So when serving customers in person, ignore phone calls, don’t carry on a conversation with one of your colleagues and don’t be engrossed in some text banter on your phone.
That kind of behaviour says that even though this person is giving you their hard-earned money, you can’t be bothered to give them your full attention. So give respect where respect is due, give your customers your full attention.
A little while back I was in a clothing retail store. I had chosen some new pants and shirts and was ready to pay, but the cashier took a phone call while I was waiting, and proceeded to talk to the person on the other end about his personal health problems.
I was fairly anxious to pay and get to my next appointment. I am sure he could see I was agitated to conclude the transaction, but he persisted in talking to his friend. Not a good impression, and on top of that, there were other customers behind me.
The expert as salesman
There’s a well-known specialist running store in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. It’s the kind of place that sells running shoes, shorts, shirts and the like for the long-distance running fraternity. You can enter yourself for all of the local races there — it’s that well known within running circles.
But what really sets it apart is the service that it delivers. If you’re a runner, the most important purchase you make is your running shoes, so customers are naturally looking for advice about the various types of footwear available.
At this small store, in a suburban shopping centre, the staff all seem to be runners, and they are so passionate about their sport that they can’t tell you enough about the various shoes. They are actually excited about the advances in the new ranges and they will tell you at length what each particular pair offers.
They’ll enquire about your running habits and your goals, and ask you to run a few steps so they can gauge the pronation of your foot.
The staff here are so in love with the sport of road running and the products they stock, that the process of selling is secondary to them. Compare that with other shops, where the staff is obsessed with making sales.
Any query about a product attracts a rushed answer from an assistant who just wants to know your size, so he can fetch you a box of shoes and send you on your way.
Shopping at the neighbourhood running store is a far better experience, which is why so many runners go there. It employs experts who happen to be salesmen, not just expert salesmen.
Try to live this kind of passion in your business. Learn to love the process — the human interaction of selling. The sale will take care of itself.
“Have you bought from us before?”
There’s a difference between a regular customer and a new customer. The regular understands your systems, he might have a favourite assistant who he deals with, and he probably knows exactly what he’s looking for. He still deserves the very best service, sure, but he’s already a fan of your store. He’s making a return visit, after all.
The new customer doesn’t know how your store works, but he’s giving you a chance. He deserves the kind of extra-special treatment that will turn him into a loyal return customer.
You need to identify your new customers as quickly as possible, so you can give them that special treatment. Ask them directly: “Have you been to our store before?”
If she hasn’t, you’ll be able to give her a warm welcome, show her around, explain the little idiosyncrasies of how you do things and help her get what she’s looking for.
Then, why not give her a special ‘new customer’ discount, or some other extra-value item to make her visit even more memorable? You’ve just turned a new customer into a regular customer!
Let no customer go unnoticed
I once walked into a restaurant where the entrance was unattended. After I entered, I noticed a couple of waiters chatting at the bar, so I found myself a table. I guess they assumed someone else was helping me, because they just left me to my own devices.
I found a menu, and saw some dishes that looked interesting, but after five minutes, when no one had taken my order, I just walked out. Again, no one said a word to me.
Does this story ring any bells? Sadly, it could have happened in any South African town or city, where poor awareness of customers is all too common.
In your store there should be several pairs of eyes watching the entrance like a hawk. Any customer coming in should be — not pounced on, exactly — but immediately acknowledged and welcomed.
Being too lazy to pay attention to who’s in your store is just as bad as not acknowledging someone you have noticed. Even if you’re busy with another customer, tell the second customer: “Hi! I’ll be with you in a minute.” It’s basic respect. Quite honestly, people who don’t have the decency or the motivation to acknowledge their customers shouldn’t be working in retail.
South Africans also have a bad habit of not standing up when a customer walks into their retail outlet. This also shows a lack of respect for the customer. It’s a pretty poor show.
Respect your customer and the sale will follow.