The Write Stuff – Blog

Oct 01 2011 5 Customer Service Tips That Won’t Make You GASP!
Customer service tips

If you’re not familiar with the furor caused by Melbourne clothing retailer GASP this week, you must have been on another planet.

Not only was customer Keara O’Neill ill-treated by “retail superstar” Chris (who appears to have a history for behaving inappropriately), the response from management was equally poor.

While GASP management are claiming the bad publicity has actually increased sales, many people (or “undesirables” according to area manager Matthew Chidgey) are disgusted by how GASP have treated their customers and subsequent complaints.

So here are five customer service tips that won’t make you GASP!

1. The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong

Sometimes we might know better than our customer and shake our heads at their woefully misguided ideas or selections… but we can’t tell them that! It’s our job to make tactful suggestions and comments to guide our customers the right way.

Forcing our ideas or suggestions only puts those we’re trying to help on the defensive and is far more likely to result in an unhappy customer unwilling to part with their cash.

Even if they can’t be swayed by our subtle guidance, the customer is the one who is paying. As such, they’re entitled to do what they please with their money (even if that means keeping it in their pocket).

2. Don’t lose your cool!

OK, so apparently Keara (disgruntled customer) had referred to one of the frocks as a “dead flamingo”, which upset “retail superstar” Chris so much, he felt compelled to respond with insults of his own.

NOT COOL CHRIS!!

Sure, other customers may have overhead these comments, but if the product is good it shouldn’t matter.

What does matter is these other customers also heard the sales assistant devolve into petty name calling. While it might not matter if Keara never returns to the store, the other customers (who may well have been cashed up, “fashion forward” celebrity wannabes) might not return either.

As a “retail superstar”, Chris should have dealt with the situation calmly and maturely, demonstrating exactly what it does take to earn such a lofty title.

3. Negative feedback is an opportunity

It seems GASP management understood this in response to another customer earlier this year, but somewhere along the way they appear to have forgotten.

A customer who takes the time to issue a complaint is giving you the opportunity to make amends for what ever real or perceived issue may have occurred. This can be your opportunity to actually turn a bad experience into a good one by not only addressing the original complaint, but also taking things one step further to go “above and beyond” the customers expectations to restore good faith.

Once the complaint has been assessed, it may also be a great opportunity to improve staff training, access to products, marketing strategies… whatever area of weakness the unhappy customer may have uncovered, and implementing strategies to improve that area.

4. Take the high ground

This doesn’t mean get on your high horse. It means, regardless of whether you think you (or your staff) are in the right or not, take the high ground and apologise for the experience your customer had.

It’s not the same as admitting you’re wrong. It’s merely a way to validate the way your customer was made to feel, which more often than not, is all that’s needed.

It costs nothing and can go a long way toward throwing water on a potentially explosive situation.

5. Damage control is best avoided if possible

GASP appear to be in a long line of companies who have responded either inappropriately, or too slowly, to complaints that have been made. Unfortunately, consumers have the power of the internet at their fingertips and it’s never been so easy to publicly air grievances.

While GASP are claiming the publicity has been a boon for a business, this has not been the case for other vendors.

After United Air broke the guitar of Canadian musician Dave Carroll, he penned a song and released a video that went viral. United’s stock fell 10% costing stockholders $180 million.

GASP may not feel the same repercussions, but it will be interesting to see if their alleged increase in sales will continue after the rubber-neck factor has worn off.

So what are your thoughts? Would you deal with a retailer (or any service provider) if they had treated other customers this way? Or would you still be inclined to shop where you could find what you needed, regardless of poor publicity?

Leave your comments below.

Posted in Communication, Customer Service by 5 comments

5 Responses to “5 Customer Service Tips That Won’t Make You GASP!”

  • Reply Jo October 02, 2011at 8:22 am

    What I found astounding about GASP’s management of the complaint and subsequent media attention was their complete lack of understanding of how social media works. Although GASP seemed to be happy with the publicity, it’s not really a good thing to see your brand with the word ‘fail’ attached to it in a Twitter hashtag or ‘boycott’ pages set up on Facebook. I live in Perth and now know where NOT to shop when I visit Melbourne.

    • Reply Anna Butler October 03, 2011at 10:24 pm

      So very true Jo… I know the old adage says “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, but with so many options available to consumers today, I think any vendor who believes this is kidding themselves.

      Sadly the whole retail sector seems to be infected with poor customer service these days. Having recently ventured into the CBD retail sector, it was ridiculously difficult to get any service at all – good, bad or otherwise! 

      Meanwhile, I also wonder how much GASP can gauge increased sales only 1 day after the story broke! That may be a little premature and it will be interesting to see how they’re travelling 6 months from now.

  • […] As GASP demonstrated, poor communication leads to big PR consequences. It is now too easy for poorly written (and in this case, ill-considered) business documents to be forwarded, posted and publicised via social media and circulate within the news media. Not only does it appear GASP doesn’t care about it’s customers, but it doesn’t care about how it communicates. An unprofessional letter has drawn attention to the brand for all the wrong reasons (check out Anna at Copybreak’s 5 Customer Service Tips That Won’t Make You GASP). […]

  • Reply Paul Hassing October 04, 2011at 1:45 am

    Nice one, Anna! You really lay it out beautifully. 🙂

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