Sunday, February 08, 2009

Caveat Emptor + A Lesson in Customer Service

Filipinos are a very patient lot. We don't raise a fuss even when we are wronged. We always try to avoid a confrontation if we can help it. Sometimes, we just let things go to avoid the hassle. But I think we should all learn to speak up and say our piece when we feel we are not getting the fair end of the deal. One thing I appreciate about buying items in the US is the reasonable return policy. If you find something wrong with the product, whether it's not the right size, it didn't look the way it did on the website, or even if you are just simply not happy with it, they'll take it back no questions asked as long as the product is unused and is in its original packaging with the tags and all. If you need to replace a crappy item, they'll give you a new one, no prob! If you want a refund, fine! Here, the customer is king, and they will do anything to please the customer, just so he/she will go back to buy more, and hey, maybe even spread the word about their product and service. Which makes business sense. A happy customer is a customer for a lifetime. Not only that, happy customer's family and friends will be customers for a lifetime too. Just imagine the multiplier effect on business revenues generated from a single customer! One doesn't have to go to graduate business school to realize that!

So when a friend, who is based in Manila, bought a phone from an authorized brand distributor in a mall (not from the tiangge because she wanted the assurance of quality) and paid a huge sum of money for a brand spanking new unit, and she realized she did not get a brand new unit at all, she immediately asked for a replacement. But when she found out that the remaining units in the store had either messages or photos in it, she got really riled up. She was paying for a brand new unit and she wanted a new, unused phone given the amount of money she was parting with. She sought help from the brand executives and after the latter made arrangements to send her a brand new unit, was told that the distributor would be handling the incident from thereon.

While my friend was lucky to have access to the higher-ups and was immediately sent a brand new unit, I can't help but wonder how ordinary people who have no connections would deal with this issue if they had no guts or means to complain? What is more disconcerting is that an authorized retailer would sell phones that were either test units or have been used (however slightly) without advising the customer beforehand. A little transparency would never hurt. If the customer was willing to wait a day or so for a brand new unit, then it is still an item sold, even if it was not sold right that moment.

When my friend followed up on the status of the incident, as she felt those concerned were being mum on the incident, she was told that erring staff had been suspended. Of course, it annoyed her that she had to follow up herself and was not given updates on how the investigation was progressing. According to her, she did not get the explanation she wanted.

Now here's a lesson on customer service that I think we as customers should expect, and that we as retailers/marketers/service providers should keep in mind to keep everyone happy. As long as we are all happily buying and selling, we will keep the market churning!

In this scenario, I think that when a retailer is faced with a customer complaint, they should immediately get down to the bottom of this and give the unsatisfied customer an explanation as to how and why the incident happened. If it will take a while to investigate, then at least provide constant updates just to assure the customer that the matter has your attention. Keeping silent will just raise the suspicion of the customer. If the salespeople in the store screwed up, then apologize. If President Obama was humble enough to say "I screwed up" when his appointees Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer quit, then I hope we all learn to summon the integrity to own up to our faults as well. We are all human and we do not always have control over things. Customers easily forgive once they understand that the company/retailer is sincere in addressing their concern. What really matters is we face our problems and issues head on and not just hope for it disappear. I think this kind of mindset is what ails us a people. We somehow think a cosmetic cover up will erase the underlying issue.

Which reminds me a lot about our country's politics. But oh well, this is a fashion blog! I'd rather keep things light and breezy for now!


Anonymous said...

i know! can you believe fedex delivery dudes don't have phones on them? im still waiting for my LR boots! i got 2 delivery exceptions, which is strange cos im home all day

LegallyChef said...

speaking of bad customer service, I have to point out how frustrating it was to deal with GigaHertz in Greenhills. I got an original replacement for a power cord for the HP laptop. First one they gave me died within 3 days. They replaced it and it blew up leaving a small gash. Since it was still under warranty, I went back to the store. After 3 weeks we were told that the warranty was voided because of the gash. Which is stupid since the physical damage was due to an internal problem. Gigahertz told us that since the official distributor refuses to replace it, I would have to accept that. I told Gigahertz that the warranty I am claiming is from the store. The warranty of the official distributor is to the retailer and NOT the buyer.

To make the long story short, I had to tell the Manager that if he doesn't replace the cord, I will file a complaint with the DTI. The manager told me if we could just offset P300 so he can give me the cord asap.

The more I think of it, I shouldn't have agreed to paying the P300 but since we've been sharing a single power cord, I was pretty desperate already.

I told Gigahertz that their policies suck and I will never ever buy from their store again. In fact, writing about it makes me so mad that I will write to HP to complain about this.

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