Talking to your industry body is a good way to learn best practice for dealing with customers.

Keep your customers happy by dealing with their complaints quickly and efficiently.

Dealing with customers

Apart from your obligations to customers under the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act, it’s just good business sense to deal with customer problems quickly and fairly. It’s also not as hard or expensive as you might think. Take the time to develop good customer service systems, such as:

Doing so will help you:

  • build customer loyalty
  • retain customers
  • make customers feel respected.

What you need to know?

You have responsibilities under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) to provide a remedy if you have breached one of the minimum guarantees that apply to ordinary household products or services.

If you fail or refuse to fix a minor problem apart from reputational damage and loss of customer goodwill, you may also find a minor problem becomes a serious problem. If you don’t do so within a reasonable time, under the CGA the customer can choose to:

  • reject the products or cancel the contract for services, or
  • get repairs done elsewhere and claim the cost from you.

Also you may not limit consumers’ rights under the CGA by telling them to go to the manufacturer to remedy a faulty product that you sold them or that the CGA doesn’t apply. If you mislead customers about their rights under the CGA you may also be breaching the Fair Trading Act which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct in trade.

When customers do have problems, a simple checklist of things to consider should include:

  • telling the customer you are taking responsibility for dealing with the problem
  • getting background information, such as comparing your staff’s version of events with the customer’s ie what was said before and at the time of sale
  • investigating the cause of the problem including possible misuse or overuse.
  • determining when the products were bought and whether the customer has returned them within a reasonable timeframe from when they discovered the defect
  • determining the extent of the defects and whether they can be easily fixed or not (usually you would send the products back to the manufacturer to check them out)
  • checking your solution meets your legal requirements
  • discussing any proposed solution with the customer-if you feel they are asking for more than their legal rights you can explain your position and reasons why politely and refer them to this website
  • doing what you promised to do in an appropriate timeframe
  • telling the customer what your business will do to prevent the problem from happening again.

At the end of the day customers are looking for their problem to be easy to report, acknowledged and dealt with quickly, sensitively, and fairly. Get this right, and no doubt you’ll improve your business through good word of mouth.


Following up on problems

It is one thing to receive and resolve customer problems, but following up on them is also something that shouldn’t be forgotten. Doing so will help problems from cropping up again and support good customer service.

Some top tips on follow-ups include:

  • Keeping a record of the complaint, and what you have agreed with the customer.
  • Inviting the customer to inform you promptly if they are not satisfied.
  • Keeping a record of all problems and complaints raised.
  • Using these records to help you evaluate your complaints handling systems. They can also help you identify recurring problems with particular goods you sell or services you offer.
  • Check how well and how quickly your staff are handling complaints. Among other things, this information might also help you determine:

o if staff know what the policies are for different types of complaint?
o what training staff need?
o if staff need better information about the product?
o whether you should be stocking different products or brands.

Tip: Organisations like Retail NZ(external link) and Hospitality New Zealand(external link) also have great customer service resources available.

More information:


 

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