by Molly Hetrick
I think I am a good customer. I’m always polite, though sometimes firm, and clear about what I am asking for when contacting a business. I try to also be patient and thoughtful, I will even say “I bet you’re really busy this time of year” or “I imagine the pandemic has made things challenging for you” and many times the person appreciates the empathy.
So, let’s consider a few things:
• I had a return of an item to Chewy.com and when I called customer service, they refunded my money but said to keep the item and donate it. This is a wonderful model… but my thoughts were “How can they afford that?” and “I can imagine other people taking advantage of that”?
• The same thing happened a few months ago with Clinique. They refunded my money, but let me keep the item to gift on to someone else. Great! Convenient for me, a friend got to try the product; maybe she will start using Clinique, which is probably what they hope for. (But again, I can see people taking advantage of this?)
So, why are we talking about this?
This is the “new” kind of customer service model, particularly which the retail world is moving to. Customers now expect free shipping, no-questions-asked returns, an end to hidden fees, and a money-back guarantee. AND Consumers are in control with online reviews. They expect customer service to be instant chat, just a click or two away, and 365/24/7. They expect same day delivery options – they don’t want to wait. They want to ask questions and make their opinions heard on social media, and have a fast response.
Even though in Recreation we are not retail, I firmly believe that this is fundamentally changing the mindset and more importantly, the expectations, of customers. They want easy, they want fast, they want satisfaction and are used to “above and beyond.”
No longer is a small business able to say “I understand you used this product for 3 months, broke it and now would like a refund of your original purchase price. But I cannot afford to do that for customers and keep my small business open. So here is what I CAN offer you…” (Slightly more direct language than is probably used, but you get the point).
Large cyber businesses have cushions, loopholes, and volume to support them. Smaller businesses, non-profits, and municipal based departments who offer services do not have such great options. We can’t give a whole summer of free camps because the child had a bad experience on Week 1. We can’t let kids repeat swimming lessons over and over without payment when the parent says it's the Instructor not the child that is at issue. If we did, we could not afford to pay staff and keep the doors open, or even stay afloat beyond one or two years.
We can’t afford to designate a staff person to cover the Instant Chat and all the social media channels, the phone, the email and the voicemail too!
Please share other examples in the comments, there are so many more!
So, what do we do?
We are just at the edge of this new change and the new habits big retail is training society to expect. So let’s look at two things.
What do Customers Want?
• Satisfaction (Happiness?)
• Their need fulfilled
• An affordable cost (sometimes they’ll pay for faster)
• A convenient and fast solution
• Their opinions and comments to be heard
Why do Customers Complain?
• Their expectations did not match what was offered
• Their expectations outstretch what the organization can provide
• They did not feel appreciated or they felt confused
• Service was not fast enough
How can we approach this?
• Clear instructions and expectations
• Matter-of-Fact policies
• Excellent friendly customer service (start off on the right foot)
• Empathy with clear solutions of what you actually CAN do when situations come up
• A work-together approach “I understand what you are asking for, here is what I can give, is there a way we can meet in the middle?”
• Decide how you will handle the small number of customers who are repeatedly asking for something outside the policies. (The 80-20 rule)
We are just entering into this new phase of super-fast, delivered to your door, over the top service. Convenience and demand take on all new meanings, and the refunds or customer service hoops to make people happy after there is a mix up sometimes are beyond belief.
How is your organization navigating these new waters?
How are these new business practices in customer service impacting your recreation services and programs?