Handling Customer Complaints

Didn't get time to send your staff on that 'how to handle customer complaints' seminar? Print off this aide memoire by HERB WETENKAMP and pass it round your employees
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Despite all your best efforts to provide quality bike products and the excellent service you pride yourself on, once in a while you'll encounter a customer that is just not satisfied with the product you've sold them or the services you've provided.

It may not even be your fault; it may be entirely the customer's misuse of the bicycle or accessories you've sold them. Once in a while it may truly be defective merchandise. No matter.

How do you react to such customer complaints that the product you sold them doesn't live up to their expectations when they bought it? Even if the complaint is seemingly without justification?

Responding to the occasional customer complaints you will inevitably receive is an art in itself. Handling such complaints requires a finesse and ability to adopt an understanding and sympathetic attitude with your customer, as well as your desire to work with the customer to rectify the situation...whether it is real or imagined.

Here are some pointers on how best to handle the occasional customer who is dissatisfied with a product purchase or service:

1. Adopt a friendly attitude about it. It's an age-old adage, but it's true: assume the customer is always right. Even if the perceived wrong is totally out of your control, you should generally assume that the customer's problem is true and real. Don't adopt a defensive attitude.

2. Be pro-active in suggesting how you might rectify the perceived or real incident that has caused the complaint. Sympathize with your customer in suggesting positive ways in which you can correct the complaint. Offer replacement merchandise if warranted. Repair a bike with problems. Offer a general overhaul, free of charge. Exchange seemingly defective bikes or accessories for new ones. Offer to perform free service on bikes that are seemingly not performing well.

3. Explain your view of the problem. If you perceive that the customer's problem is caused by improper use of the bicycle or accessory, don't adopt a condescending attitude. Simply try to explain your assessment of what caused the problems and gently suggest how the customer can overcome the problems with a different approach or modified use of the bike or accessory.

4. Use this opportunity to educate. Work with your customer to educate them on how they can best utilize the bike products you sold them and not experience further dissatisfaction. Invite them to attend bike orientation classes you may be conducting at your store on maintenance and repair, mountain biking, touring, or other aspects of riding. Invite them on a club ride or take them out with you on one of your own rides and give them a few pointers.

5. Regularly remind new and repeat customers that you stand by your merchandise and service...and will guarantee it, under any circumstances. Offer money back guarantees on any product sold-or service performed-in your store. Extend a regular offer to refund moneys or replace merchandise that is defective or unusable. Even when you can't see a problem and your gentle powers of persuasion can't convince the customer there is none, be prepared to follow through on the guarantee. Advertise your guarantee-it will help

you sell bikes! And it will build customer loyalty in the long run.

6. If all else fails, appeal to your supplier for rectification of a problem. If you can't satisfy your customer's complaints, perhaps approaching your supplier on behalf of your customer will result in replacement merchandise or another remedy.

Ultimately, it is your personal guarantee that will assure that when you do receive an occasional customer complaint, you stand by your merchandise and service, and will honour the quality products and service available in your store. Building this kind of confidence in your business will far outweigh any occasional refund or time spent in rectifying a customer complaint.

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Herb Wetenkamp is president of Info Net Publishing, which publishes the

books, Principles of Bicycle Retailing by Randy W. Kirk, and The Complete

Guide to Bicycle Store Operations by Ed Benjamin. He is former editor and

publisher of Bicycle Dealer Showcase Magazine and an associate publisher of

Bicycle Business Journal. A co-founder of the Interbike Expo, Wetenkamp has

also consulted with bicycle companies and websites.

Email: infonetpublishing@home.net

http://www.infonetpublishing.com

25221 Longwood Lane, Lake Forest CA 92630

Tel: 00 1 949 458 9292. Fax: 00 1 949 462 0224.

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