A while back, I was shopping in a retail client’s place of business doing some “recon” before preparing a customer communication program for their customer care employees. As I watched customers come and go with the various products they wished to return, I noticed a trend. The customers who were calm and politely requested a refund were told their options were a store credit or replacing the merchandise. Those customers who were especially obnoxious complained loudly and said they didn’t want a darn credit or another product, were given a refund.
When I asked the customer care employees why they refunded money to certain customers, they said, “Our manager said we’re only supposed to break policy and give a refund when a customer really makes a stink.”
Does this make sense to you? Withholding service to your best customers and bending the rules for your worst?
Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this flawed approach to customer service. The philosophy is, “Stick to policy as well as you can, but if someone causes a big scene, you can break policy to shut them up and make them go away.” There are many reasons this logic is flawed, but three significant reasons stand out. First, you’re basically training people to disregard your first offer and fight for something better, because the odds are, they’re going to get it if they fight long enough. Second, your probably driving your best customers away because when they don’t get what they want, they’re probably just going to go away quietly and find someone who will meet their needs. Finally, this approach basically makes you a liar. Either you give refunds or you don’t.
Think about it, we’ve all been a part of, or at least seen the following exchange:
Kid: “Dad, can I have some chocolate cake?”
Dad: “No, you haven’t had lunch yet.”
Kid: “Please dad, please can I have just a little chocolate cake, please?”
Dad: “I said no. No cake before lunch!”
Kid: “BUT DAD!! I WANT CHOC-O-LATE CAKE! NOW! WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”
Dad: (Cutting a piece of cake) “Alright, okay, okay! Just stop crying.”
And we all know how that story, and that kid, turns out. Any good parent knows you should either just say yes, or if you’re going to say no, you need to be willing to hold your ground no matter what.
Well, the same goes for customer service. You only have two choices and whatever you choose, it has to be applied to ALL customers. Either you hold your ground and stick to your policies for everyone, no matter what, or provide customers with all their options and let them choose what they want; a store credit, an exchange, or a refund.