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Wonderful Customer Complaints

Furniture World Magazine


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Customer complaints are a fact of life. No matter how superb our products and services are, there are going to be glitches, mistakes, misunderstandings, and unhappy people. It could be over quality, price, service, or the mind-set of the customer.

Some complaints can be handled smoothly and easily, and others can reach another level of unhappiness and hostility. But a customer’s complaint or a buyer’s dissatisfaction doesn’t have to signal the end of a relationship with that customer. Studies have shown that customers whose complaints are handled well are often more loyal to a company than those customers who have never had a problem at all. At least a customer who complains and has her complaint resolved is more valuable to you than one who is unhappy but never tells you about it. Instead of telling you and letting you correct the problem, they go and tell their neighbors and friends. It becomes a negative PR campaign.

I remember complaining about my cellular phone bill once to one of the major carriers. As you know, cellular phone plans and programs are as complicated and different as airfares. You choose one, and a week later there is a lower price and different program. In this case I was getting overbilled, and receiving dunning letters while the cellular phone company was doing nothing about it. I finally called after the third wrong bill, and started to let the person on the line really have it. After I fired a couple of rounds of hostility at the young lady, I heard nothing. So I reloaded and let her have it all over again. This time she said, “Boy, I don’t blame you for getting upset. I would probably feel the same way if I were you.” The wind was out of my sails. It was over. I didn’t yell anymore. She then said “I’m not the one who sent you the bill, but I will do everything in my power to correct it.” She fixed it, and I was happy.

What you may not realize is you don’t have to give away the store to make things right. You don’t have to get in a shouting contest with someone whose complaint is unjustified, ludicrous, or stupid. Some people just want to be heard. They just want some type of appeasement, and it isn’t always money.

In a recent survey, most customers said they wanted the following from store owners, salespeople, and service personnel when they complained.

•They wanted to be believed. They wanted someone to see it from their side.

•They wanted some type of fair settlement, some relief, something to appease them.

•If they didn’t get the relief they were looking for, they wanted a reasonable explanation of why their requests were denied.

•They wanted their complains settled easily and quickly. They didn’t want to waste a lot of their time.

•They wanted to talk to a minimal number of people. They didn’t want to hear “it’s not my department,” “it’s not my job,” or “you’ll have to talk to someone else.” They didn’t want to be juggled around and treated like a second class citizen.

•They wanted someone to take responsibility if a mistake was truly made. They wanted to hear “it’s our fault and we will take care of it.”

•They wanted some sympathy. Buying something that does not meet expectations and having to go back and deal with uncaring storeowners or salespeople is not a whole lot of fun. That’s why a lot of customers don’t come back and complain. They just don’t come back, and they tell their friends not to visit you either.

•If it is a problem with your store or showroom, and they had a right to complain, they want a sincere apology. “Sorry about that” doesn’t make it here. It has to be sincere and come from the heart. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to hear?

Customers who complain want any one or any number of the above. None of these wishes are unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be great if you could make an unhappy customer happy again by treating them civilly and handling their complaint? Even if they were wrong, at least they would tell other people you tried to help them and went out of your way to provide good customer service.

Handling complaints is not an exact science. Each customer is different. Some want to blow off steam, and want someone to listen. Others just want an easy fix or settlement. Ignoring these customers or mistreating them, even if they’re wrong, is not the answer. Just giving them their money back doesn’t always work either. Here’s where the “Do unto others” rule should actually be “Do unto others as they want to be done unto.” It’s simple and it’s common sense. And you could gain a lot of repeat business along the way.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.