ArticlesCustomer Service

Why You Should Always Honour Your Guarantees - Even When The Customer Is In The Wrong

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The Reason Why Direct Internet Marketers Have To Work So Hard To Earn Our Trust

A bad attitude to customer service can literally destroy your business.

So, I thought I'd share my response to what I read on an Internet Marketing Forum recently to illustrate my point.

It started with a genuine request made by someone looking to do the right thing despite having a frustrating run of luck...

"I've been asked for three refunds this WEEK. The product is a proven one that I've sold for 6 months and my refund rate is normally TINY. I have only been asked for four refunds ever. One of the reasons I've been given are crazy - He thought the product in question (which is about creating Income streams) was about Gardening - I kid you not!

I gave the refund because I couldn't think what to say to him, but it brought up the question of refunds? Should you ALWAYS give refunds when requested or do you sometimes argue the point?

So do you ALWAYS give refunds?"

One response which (due to the added fact that other people agreed with it) made me livid was...

"A seller on eBay was asking a similar question to yourself and the response was: 'eBay isn't a branch of Marks & Sparks, tell them to get stuffed!' Brilliant! I have actually used this response myself when dealing with timewaster buyers on eBay (minus the 'get stuffed' bit as I always try to be polite and professional) and it hasn't resulted in a tit-for-tat negative rating yet!"

So here's what I wrote...

"This is for all people who think it's funny to treat unhappy customers like a**holes!

I always give refunds when offering an unconditional guarantee - even when the mistake was "their fault". Unconditional is exactly that - without conditions. I also suggest talking first and getting clear exactly why they want their money back - you may be able to save the sale but even if you don't then all feedback is useful, right?

People who automatically assume someone who's made a mistake (or is unhappy) is a "timewaster" need to check their attitude. In fact maybe they shouldn't be in the business at all - because glib remarks, by people who should know better, telling unhappy customers (in one way or another) to "get stuffed" when they want their money back gives us all a bad name.

If your product/service is good, and you've described it accurately (giving samples where possible) then the number of refunds will be low. My experience is people who have a bad attitude when customers are unhappy get it (the attitude) because they have a higher return rate than they'd like - and think the world is full of crooks and timewasters. But maybe they should take a look at how they're describing their product and the product itself (they may unkowingly look like crooks themselves) before assuming the rest of the world is wrong."

So why am I so emphatic about this! Surely some people are crooks and timewasters?

Well you'd be right. Some people are. But many more are not.

If you recall back a few issues you'll remember I spent a lot of effort to help you hone a Bold Promise and Awesome Guarantee. Being able to offer an honest and audacious promise helps complete strangers to trust you and buy without risk of getting taken for a ride.

In fact, where Internet Marketing is concerned, a guarantee is essential. People are rightly wary until they know and trust you. It's so easy to set up a website that looks like it has something of value for sale and to take payments online that there are bound to be cheats and scoundrels out there happy to take your money without giving the promised value in return.

So a guarantee is a very powerful way to make prospective customers feel more secure in making the decision to buy from you. The problem is that scammers can make the same promises without having any intention of delivering on them.

This sorry state of affairs is why it's still difficult to gain trust from strangers on the web. And that's why it's essential to build a relationship using the pipeline and then to continue building on that relationship (again take another look at the pipeline) even if a customer later decides to call in your guarantee.

So, if we agree that our end goal is to have lots of paying customers and an army of cheerleading, evangelists telling anyone and everyone how great we are then you'll see it makes sense to be squeaky clean, to accept the odd loss and to focus on making your product and service great.

If you fail to play it straight (even when you suspect your customer isn't) then you'll be certain to completely trash your reputation faster than I can say, "Bankruptcy". The reason, quite simply, is that when a customer has a good experience they'll tell a handful of people, but when a customer has a bad experience they'll tell anyone and everyone who will listen!

This goes back to the fact that us humans will do a hell of a lot more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure. We simply focus on the bad stuff. Plus, a story of how AWFUL something was is far more dramatic than one about how NICE it was.

So it's simple. If you make a promise then stick to it. If you don't bad things will happen. Let the Universal Law of "What Goes Around Comes Around" take care of customers who are genuinely cheating you. You can focus on all the good stuff, like profits, instead.

In summary:

* If you make a guarantee then honour it (even if you feel you're being wronged).

* Always try to save the sale by asking questions - even if you still lose the sale you may learn something to make a return less likely in the future.

* Don't take people calling you on your guarantee personally - that's what it's there for. Be gracious and you may even gain a new evangelist where you first thought there was a problem.

'Dangerous' Debbie Jenkins

(c) Copyright 2005

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