Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority Nigeria

Deadly Sins of Customer Relations -3

By Tope Popoola

If you intend to keep your customers loyal to you, you must never forget that today’s marketplace is filled with several options (you call them competition) from which your customers can choose and you are just one of such! Even if you currently have a monopoly in the market, trust me, if the business is lucrative, someone will replicate it and do it far better than you ever have or can! Those who commit the grievous error of forgetting that fact are on their way out of the market.

In dealing with a customer who complains about your services, never raise your voice at him, even if what he is saying is giving you the creeps and almost making your blood boil! Self –control is the key here. Remember, the focus should be on getting the problem resolved, not in proving a point. When you raise your voice at a customer who feels aggrieved, he immediately sees it as an act of aggression, even if he started the war. Now instead of seeing someone he did business with, he begins to see you as a foe!

Never enter into an argument with a displeased customer especially if he has good reason to believe that he is right and is bent on proving it! You may win an argument, but does it make sense if you lose a friend? Remember, as I said in the series on Customer Management, if every person has the potential to affect about 10,000 people in his lifetime, when you lose a customer, you lose also potentially those that he has influence over! Do you remember how you refrained from taking your car to a particular mechanic simply because one of your friends whose opinion you respect told you about a terrible experience he had with him?

I had to make a customer service representative of the telephone carrier that I use regularly when I travel to the USA recognize this recently. On a recent trip, I stayed for more than one month; which meant that I needed to renew the plan on my line if I wanted to retain it. I requested for a downgraded plan that would cost less since I had only a few more days to spend in the country. They obliged me but  I had to pay a renewal fee for the new plan. When I was told the amount, I promptly went to their agent and made a payment. But what I paid was not sufficient. So I needed to pay more. Hours after I made the second payment, my line had not yet been restored. So I called the company. Only to be told that they had no record of the second payment. I spent a long time on the phone with the customer relations department without any success. Each time I called, the story was the same. But I was insistent. At a time, I had to go back to the agent from whom I bought the payment card. He was on the phone with them for a long time and still without a resolution. I left him, determined to get a fair treatment. I called again and they still insisted that I had to make another payment since they had no trace of the one I made. Then an argument ensued. My host wanted me to pay and just get my line back since it was just $10. I let him know that the money was the least of my worries but I needed them to do what was right.

In an argument, it is no longer about what is right, it is about who can prove a point by outtalking the other. In dealing with your customers, when you talk more than the customer, you are passing across the message that you are not listening! I told the lady at the other end of the line that if she kept repeating what I had heard all day, she obviously was not listening to me. I had the receipt for the payment and all she had to do was ask me to send it or quote the details on it! At the end of it all I had to tell her point blank, “I know as you do that this conversation is being recorded as were previous conversations. So let it be on record that if for any reason I have to pay the $10 again, my four-year relationship with your company is over! And I will spread the word!”  She knew I was serious! She put me on hold for a few moments and promptly restored my line while requesting me to email a scanned copy of the receipt to their office, something she could have done long before I issued my threat!

Furthermore, never make the mistake of relating with customer on assumptions. As much as possible, document your transactions with a customer and where necessary, draw up and sign an agreement that clearly spells the terms and rules of engagement. Once a transaction is not documented in a way that spells out the customer’s own liabilities, when he complains, just shut up and give him what he wants. You can lick your wounds later but you should have learnt your lesson. When you buy something from many Nigerian merchants, you will find clearly written on the receipt that goods once bought are not returnable. I usually don’t buy into that nonsense. So where necessary, especially if it is a new product, I insist on a return guarantee in writing. This is because sometimes, in the desire to make a sale, they may make you verbal promises that you can return the product if there is a problem. However, if they renege, how do you hold them accountable? So I usually insist that they indicate that promise on the receipt! What you write may be the only thing that ultimately proves you right!

Relationship with the customer should not end after the sale! Position yourself to receive feedback! If you are sure of the value you are pushing into the market, it should be important to you if the customer is being well served or not by your product or service! Consumer experience surveys and reviews, mystery shopping, phone calls, emails, are all channels of taking feedback from your customers. What some companies do is encourage their customers to fill out a review of the quality of service received or the utility value of the product bought. To encourage customer participation in the review, they usually attach prizes to be won for participating…continued.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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