Should your business’s policies always be applied, in all cases, for all customers? Only company leadership can decide that. The most important thing when making business decisions is putting yourself in the customer’s position. Determine if these policieswill invite people to return, buy more, and become fans; or drive customers away to seek other providers.
I bought guitar strings from an online provider that stated a 30-day return policy. As it turns out, I sold my instrument and got a new one that required different strings. This new guitar arrived more than 30 days beyond the dealer’s policy-stated return-time.
So I had purposeless strings that I needed to exchange. They were brand new–never even opened. I wanted to trade for a higher-priced set (that would mean more money on top of the original sale for the online provider).
The manufacturer helped by exchanging the products! In this case, D’Addario became the hero, and the online dealer was the villain. The folks at D’Addario also expressed frustration with the dealer’s inflexibility.
Apply policies with an eye on retaining customers. Bend the rules when appropriate, especially for good (returning) customers.
Always show that you are your own customers’ advocate. Do this especially when the public is “looking.” Use social media as a marketing tool to show your audience that you’re “on their side.” A better answer would have been:
“Fair point. Even though our policy is clear, as a courtesy, we will review your case and get in touch with you.” (Then, they can conduct the return and ask that it not be publicized—something that is reasonable for a happy customer who now is a fan.
At Improving Communications, we have “policies” too, but they’re only enforced when dealing with difficult customers. We had a good (returning/repeat business) customer who was very late on paying an invoice. We chose not to punish and impose the policy-stated charge for being late. Pettiness like that only encourages customers to find another provider.
Life’s Little Instruction Book offers a great bit of advice: “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” The online dealer lost a customer. The real lesson here is this: Flexibility, and situation-appropriate customer treatment goes a long way in keeping customers and turning them into fans.
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