The Empowered Consumer: Bermuda Retailers Beware
12/28/2007 | In a most unlikely way, a 60-year-old retired salesman in the UK recently emerged a YouTube celebrity after posting a video of himself complaining about the horrific customer service woes he experienced in settling a billing dispute with his local telephone company.
Retailers in Bermuda be warned! It’s a brave new world of empowered consumers out there.
The furious telephone subscriber, Patrick Askins, used YouTube, an online video posting site, to shame BT into settling a dispute over a bill for the equivalent of $180 for disputed calls made several months earlier. Apparently, before resorting to posting a clip on YouTube to get his issue resolved, the poor gent had spent several months dealing with automated voice messages, overseas call centres, and a frustrating inability to deal with an actual human being to resolve what was initially a relatively small billing error.
Consumers in Bermuda have been similarly riled by poor customer service in resolving a problem. Common complaints across the Island include being routed to voice mail and not being called back, the retailer automatically blaming the customer for the problem before bothering to investigate, salespeople telling customers they can’t deal with their problem and advising the customer to phone “head office”, customers being told they have to return a defective product to the manufacturer themselves, or being confrontational with customers who are voicing a complaint. To name a few.
Whether the issue is about a product or a service, it is a fact that customers will complain from time to time, because products do fail and services are not always what the customer was expecting. Whether or not you are legally responsible for the issue that the customer is complaining about (for instance, if you sold them a defective product), a costumer complaint system will ensure that you give both the customer and yourself a chance to resolve the issue to your mutual satisfaction, and possibly even to turn a negative event into a positive one by impressing the customer with how well you handled their issue.
What comprises such a system?
First, listen to the grievance. A complaint form will allow you to get essential information and start your written log of the problem. Listen to the facts, show concern, but don’t commit yourself too quickly to any solution. Secondly, investigate with those involved within your business and assess your policies, procedures and practices for similar situations.
Don’t be afraid to admit fault.
Communicate with the costumer what you propose to do face-to-face and give the solution a time frame for completion. Follow up with a letter so that your records and the customer have a written version of the final decision.
If no agreement can be reached or the proposed action is unacceptable, state the nature of future action or the procedure for an appeal. If you cannot work out an acceptable solution, it may become necessary to refer the matter to Consumer Affairs. The Inspector assigned to the case will want evidence from both sides to show there was a reasonable effort to solve the problem. We can also suggest ways in which the problem can be solved.
Customers are essentially looking for their problem to be easy to report, acknowledged and dealt with quickly, sensitively and fairly. And remember, customers are satisfied when their expectations are met or exceeded- not yours.