History in the Making

History in the Making

The Importance of Customer Service, Style File Friday

Unless you are lucky enough to have a personal shopper who handles all of the nitty and gritty parts of your shopping experience, you will come into contact with customer service at some point in the proceedings. Usually, I would say that it goes smoothly for most of us, but every once in a while, there is a snag in the proceedings and we rely on customer service to get us through the transaction peacefully. Today I’m chatting about what makes for good customer service, and what we can do to help everything along as the customer!
The Importance of Good Customer Service

What is Good Customer Service?

While the definition of “good customer service” varies from person to person, I think that we can all agree that are a few elements that are common to all of us. I’ve recently had a few excellent instances of customer service that I think are my new standard. On the weekend I was making an order with Old Navy; I normally don’t order from there as their bottoms don’t fit me well but they have a few things I was very interested in. The coupon code was only working on one of the items and not the other (which wasn’t in any of the excluded groups). I decided to give their customer service line a call, and their agent manually fixed the price as soon as I put the order through and gave me free, faster shipping. I placed the order on Saturday around 4:30pm and had the items by noon on Wednesday!
1) We want to feel that we are being heard. Often when we have to speak to someone about an issue, we want to know that they are listening to what we are actually saying and processing it, not just running on autopilot and. The agent from Old Navy repeated back to me what I said, and then he continued an open conversation about the situation. He went through the product exclusions and confirmed that it should have been included. It felt like an actual conversation, and although it was a job for him, he was engaged and actually listening. It went a long way in the situation!
2) We want a related solution. I find that oftentimes customer service agents will offer you an entirely unrelated “solution” to the issue; ie. a free pair of socks when your order of shoes gets lost and takes three weeks to arrive. This differs from person to person but overall, I think that most of us would like something related. Free expedited shipping, or the ability to cancel the order (as many orders are time sensitive) would go a long way to keeping my faith in a company rather than a random item or discount code that works in a week. The proper discount fixed and free shipping was a relevant end to the situation, and I didn’t end up with random items for free that I didn’t want anyways.
3) We want a fair resolution. As someone who has worked in retail, this is not true across the board, but I think that a majority of us would like to see a fair resolution. If I have made a $400 order, I do not expect it to be completely refunded while I keep the merchandise because it’s a few days late (though many people will ask for it). I would like my position recognised without someone’s job being in danger, because outrageous demands and heinous complaints can cost a retail worker their job. By offering me free, quick shipping, it was more than fair! It was within his power to offer it, and it turned a frustrating situation around.
Old Navy Red Plaid Vest

What is a Good Customer? 

Being a good customer is as important, if not most important, in the arena of customer service. If you have no loyalty with a company, you can’t expect to receive top of the line service- there’s no history to show that they should go far above and beyond. If you are lucky like me, you will receive it, but one or two random orders doesn’t owe you anything above the normal service.
1) Be polite and friendly. Pardon my French, but no one wants to deal with an asshole. Be rude, condescending, arrogant, loud, or generally irritating, you can expect for people to be the same in return. Go above and beyond as a customer so that agents will want to go above and beyond for you. If you go into the situation with positive expectations and a willingness to work with them, you aren’t starting it off on a negative foot.
2) Do your research ahead of time. Before you call or go into a store, make sure that you have all of the information that you need. If you are using a coupon code online, go over the details and exclusions two or three times to make sure that you understand the parametres. When you look at items on a website, make sure that the item absolutely does not fall into the excluded categories- check the item details and any fine print. If you are following up on an order, have the order receipt in front of with and any other information you might need, like billing and shipping info. They will need proof; have it ready to go!
3) Be realistic. You aren’t going to receive your item for free, or for 50% off, in the large majority of all cases. None of us are so worthwhile as customers that someone is going to risk their job security to offer that, so be a realistic customer. I worked at a bookstore and people would often expect 50% or more off for a mass market paperback ($9.99 CAD) for a slightly bent corner. If I try to enter that discount into the system, I would automatically have been flagged. That’s it, that’s all, end of story. And I was asked weekly, sometimes daily. It usually resulted in zero discount because the customer showed zero regard for my job and was largely out of touch with the situation. Be a realistic customer and set realistic expectations!
Old Navy Tartan Twill Ballet Flats
What does excellent customer service look like to you? 
Until tomorrow,
The Historian!
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12 thoughts on “The Importance of Customer Service, Style File Friday”

  • Cath Kidston for the most part have great customer service. My annoyance though is returns. Loads of shops (like Cath Kidston) require you to pay return postage if you don’t like the item (you can’t even return to store with them). But when one of my pens I had from them went wrong they agreed to refund the return postage.

  • Excellent post as always!
    I used to work in retail too. If something was damaged, we could normally give 10% off (but then the item would be non-returnable.) I’d be shocked if someone expected 50%!
    I used to find that I’d make the most commission when I was honest with people. So, if someone tries on a dress that looks terrible on them, I would say something like “the colour doesn’t look quite right, have you thought about trying this instead”, or “have you tried this more flattering style?”. Most people seemed to trust me more if I didn’t just butter them up with “you look amaaazing” type comments. I also appreciate it when people give me honest support, rather than just try to sell me the most expensive item.
    In restaurants I think it is good service if a waiter/waitress can listen to what I like, and recommend a good wine.

    • I much prefer honesty, and will be 100% more likely to return if you tell me the truth. If I wanted to ignore the truth, I would just not ask anyone their thoughts!! I worked in a bookstore for years, and I was honest if I liked or disliked a specific book. I always liked to give a reason, but if I hated it, I’m not going to recommend it!!!
      At the end of the day, it’s exactly what you said- a good listener who can make a good recommendation! (Bonus points if it isn’t what is simply on special!)

  • I think you covered it quite well. I might add, if pressed, it’s nice when people are vaguely familiar with the products.
    Example: I was looking for Halloween Candy on Halloween. I had to ask three employees before one could tell me where to find it. (It was in the middle of the Christmas stuff. LOL)

  • I think you covered all the parts that I’m looking for in customer service!
    I also agree that you should be polite- you get ‘more bees with honey’ but I also know in certain
    Situations you may have to turn the tables. Sometimes it’s necessary (however I’m too chicke to do that)

    • I think that reaching your breaking point should be a very last resort, but it can work. If you truly have been wronged, it may help you find some peace in it (although I’d say those situations are few and far between)! I think the only time I resorted to it involved my car, and that’s because safety is involved.

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