Everyone speaks of customer service a lot but what is it? Why is it so crucial for your mattress retail or furnishing business?
What is customer service?
‘Customer’ is different from ‘prospective customer’. The former means someone who has bought your product. A prospective or potential customer becomes a customer when he/she purchases and not before that.
With respect to this article, customer service can be described as a prearranged set of action and policies, which responds to customers [already buyers] post-sale complaints or inquiries. Frequently, customer service is a response to irritated customer’s ravings.
Including a policy of how to deal with customers after sales interaction [good/bad] in retailer’s policy will make everyone [even consumers] happy and satisfied.
What is the aim of customer service policy?
Customer service’s aims are very simple. The main concept is to ‘keep consumers happy’, so they keep coming back. The first step for sales staff is to close sales and deliver the best mattress as soon as possible or on the same day in good condition [good condition may sometimes be a transit issue]. The more quickly consumers get their stuff, the happier they are.
You have served the consumer in better ways, but will this great service get rewarded with getting a loyal consumer? Not necessarily because consumers are erratic. However, bad service will possibly lose one customer forever.
Customer service levels
Customer service levels can be broken down –
- After sale but before delivery
- Actual delivery
- Post-delivery [merchandise is in consumer’s house]
Each level has its exclusive rules and regulations.
After sale pre-delivery consumer service
In general, mattresses get delivered in a couple of days. At this level customer service just makes a call proclaiming that the product is prepared to be delivered. This first level of customer service is long and risky.
In many states, the consumers have the right to cancel sales any time prior delivery. They have legal right to cancel, demand, and receive a total purchase price refund.
Everyone hates this scenario, so the RSA responsible for closing the sale needs to keep consumers updated on the purchase. Sometimes, the mattress type ordered may not be in stock and can probably take more than six weeks for delivery. This long duration between sale and delayed delivery is tense for the store and consumer. Consumers are concerned about the new product and the store is worried about cancellation. To avoid such problems RSAs can do several things.
- Never create irrational expectations from the start – Before sale closes and money is paid, ensure that customer comprehends that non-stock mattresses need to be ordered. It normally takes 6 weeks to arrive at your store but you should tell consumers it can take 8 weeks and gain some leeway. If stock arrives within 6 weeks then you look good. When you say 6 to 8 weeks, the consumer’s subconscious mind memorizes ‘6 weeks’.
- Follow up – Order department handles the delivery but RSA needs to keep track to ensure everything is as scheduled. You don’t desire to be the last one to find that your consumer’s order is behind schedule or discontinued.
- Keep the consumer informed – Never allow the consumer to simmer for the next 6 weeks and convey a message that the factory had some hiccups and their order is delayed for extra four weeks. The consumer is waiting impatiently for the great new mattress to enjoy. If you call and give updates every week, even if there is nothing new to report, the customer will value your thoughtfulness.
- Avoid this scenario – Never forget that sale happened. Suddenly, after 6 weeks you get a call from a furious and impatient consumer but you don’t remember who the person is and what you sold to him/her.
The trademark of mattress selling is urgency. This means a majority of mattress sales get picked up or delivered on the same day [as purchased]. If the consumer takes it with him then RSA needs to ensure that the item preferred is in stock or not. How to make sure –
- Check inventory list.
- If there are several available on the list then you can be confident and okay.
- In case there is only one shown on the list then double check.
- Call the warehouse.
- You can personally go and get it but before that make sure that it is not sold previously and waiting for delivery.
NEVER promise delivery until you check and double check your inventory.
Few ideas about delivery
- Store vehicle – Delivery vehicle needs to be clean and have your store name. Just imagine a couple of rough looking pull ups in front of a consumer’s home in a shabby truck without any identifiers. Possibility that consumers will not open the door is more. What an embarrassing situation for the store!
- Scary employees – Delivery employees need to wear a uniform with company name, so that old ladies don’t get frightened as they can clearly identify the delivery person.
- Bad inspection – All the merchandise needs to be checked and double-checked prior loading in the delivery truck. Never allow soiled or damaged products make their way to the customer’s bedroom.
- Call ahead – Give a call a day before delivery and again on the delivery day to remind consumers their merchandise is on its way.
- Check home interior routes – Delivery boys need to check the route through the consumer’s house before unloading the merchandise. It will help them avoid obstacles or knock a treasured porcelain over or prized picture in a narrow foyer, while transporting the mattress to the bedroom. Make sure that this rule is followed strictly, unless you relish a phone call from angry customers complaining about the delivery guys knocking their antique flower vase.
- Use of water – Hand washing at the consumer’s plumbing facilities is allowed or you can have them wear heavy gauge plastic gloves. Clean gloves are needed to remove the perfect mattress from soiled bags.
- Carry-off – Delivery guys will need to dispose of the consumer’s old set and make place for the new pristine mattress. Carry some extra bags to pack the saggy old mattress. Wear gloves.
Post-delivery consumer service
Customer service according to retailers understanding – How many thank you calls are got post sales and delivery to appreciate great deals and services? None, calls are only from complainers.
Are customers always right?
Harry Gordon Selfridge coined this phrase, ‘Customer is always right,’ but is only partially right. It may have meant to persuade clienteles that they can obtain good services and influence employees to offer good services. Customer complaints fall under 3 categories.
- Seller’s error – Customer is hurt by an obvious error the retailer made. The retailer has a responsibility to fix this situation apologetically and willingly after confessing the mistake without any questions asked.
- Seller’s error made or maybe not – The situation has some vagueness of whom to blame. Either way, consumers are offended. In this scenario, the seller assumes to be guilty and resolves this issue without asking any questions and satisfies the consumer then the consumer gets the benefit of doubt.
- Customers are at fault – All retailers fear this situation because it is hard to establish fair policy. When a consumer is disgracefully wrong and totally irrational then the phrase ‘Customers are always right’ seems to be NOT correct. In such scenarios retailers need to try and reduce the damage as much as they can.
Benefits of doubt scenarios
Some consumer complaints are bogus regarding ‘body impression’ or ‘comfort’. If mattress makers resolved both these issues then the mattress industry can get much better.
How to remove body impression complaints?
When measured professionally the depression, which was described by the consumer as ‘canyon’ turns out to be just half an inch. The RSAs need to tackle this body impression aspect on the sales floor itself to eliminate post-delivery complaints.
Educate customers that their bed WILL get tiny body impressions. Never allow them to discover that, instead tell them without fail on the sales floor.
How to handle comfort issues?
Majority of mattress showrooms offer ‘comfort exchanges’. Plenty of comfort issues arise due to poor sales presentation. The showroom offering comfort exchanges need to publish their terms and conditions clearly in writing. The RSA needs to tell the customer about it.
The question is when to fight and when to surrender to the consumer? It is not painful to take back the mattress in good condition. In many states, these take backs are legally processed, treated and resold with appropriate disclaimers that they are a used mattress. It can be displayed in the clearance area for attracting bargain hunters.
Customer service is harsh, unrewarding and sometimes a ruthless job. Good or bad customer service cannot break or make a business but is crucial for running business shrewdly.