Lifetime return policies. Responding to every complaint with fall-on-the-sword apologies. Sales reps showering customers with freebies when something has gone slightly awry. Many people would view these things as the hallmarks of true customer service.
But it’s bullshit. All of it.
There is a difference between legitimate customer service, and disingenuous ass kissing in order to buy a customer’s loyalty. And the latter has consequences.
Here’s a story passed along during the most recent edition of Store Wars. To be perfectly clear, I have nothing, NOTHING against sabrown for passing along this comment, or, for his brother’s actions. It’s the sales rep and perhaps company policy that’s at issue here…
40 up-votes? All for a situation that doesn’t deserve to be celebrated. “Make things right“? But the store wasn’t in the wrong. The customer was. He got the wrong size, but still somehow managed to keep wearing them.
Here’s why situations like this one, this overzealous customer service, actually does more harm than good:
1. Someone’s gotta pay.
So, who’s paying for the shoes if the brother isn’t? Those costs have to be paid for somewhere down the line. And it’s not just “oh gosh we’re sorry” freebies. Hand written thank-you notes cost money. So do sweaters returned 10 years after they were purchased. It’s like an over-litigious society, where companies throw their hands up and just settle a case out of court because they don’t want to pay for the lawyers… and then pass the costs on to the customers that didn’t threaten to sue.
2. It sets a precedent of unreasonable expectations. For you, in your job.
Flip the script. It’s the golden rule. No matter your job, you’ve got customers… somewhere. During a recent personal real estate experience, some paperwork got goofed and a document (a single page) had to be signed an extra time. The realtor came to our place and the new document got signed at our kitchen table. On the way out the Realtor asked, out of nowhere, what my favorite restaurant is. Why? Because she wanted to get us a gift card “for the trouble.” … The trouble? It took two minutes. Would you want to operate in an environment where you had to grease someone with a gift for ONE extra signature?
3. People become entitled assholes.
When companies try to buy loyalty by treating customers like they can do no wrong, some of those customers start to believe it. It’s like the web, always asking for everyone’s opinion (not because anyone cares, they just want your clicks), or a clueless boss fueled by brown-nosing “yes men”. What’s lost to most, is that there are plenty of us out there who’d respect a business MORE if they told some of these types to get the hell out of their restaurant / bar / car wash / department store, instead of comping the whiners just to get them to shut up.
There are plenty of businesses who can’t seem to get customer service right. But while most of it seems to be in the “lacking” realm, favoring overzealous customer service isn’t the right answer either.
I fully understand people will bristle at this. But imagine being the sales rep. The person on the other end, who is tasked with delivering the “service” here. And consider… what is fair? What is reasonable?