How do your people react to dissatisfied customers?

I was returning the $200 Z-Coil sports shoes I thought would help my heel pain. I’d purchased them the previous week with the provision I could return them with no restocking fee if my physical therapist didn’t approve of how they supported my feet. It took me a few days longer to get in to see her than I thought.

Andrew, the manager, said I could wear them around my house to see how they felt and still return them if needed. I did just that.

My PT said the coil in the heel was too unstable for me. I explained this to the salesman at the counter. He said he would refund me minus a “sanitation” fee. I told him Andrew, who was helping another customer, said there was no return fee. Andrew came to the counter and looked at the shoes. He threw them back into the box and said they were too worn to waive the fee. I told him I wore them only around the house, as we had agreed. He gave me a disgusted look.

I was not surly or belligerent. I was calm, yet clear on what we had agreed. There was no need for him to throw the shoes in the box nor give me the look he did.

As a result, I will never recommend anyone to this store, and on their feedback form I pointed out Andrew’s unprofessionalism. Other customers in the store heard the interaction.

How could Andrew have handled it differently?

He could have said, “I’m sorry these didn’t work out for you. I thought they would. I realize I said there would be no return fee when you thought you’d see your PT the next day, so there would only have been a day or so of wear around the house. You’ve had these shoes a week and it appears they’ve been worn longer than I expected, thus the need for them to be sanitized for the next customer. I hope you understand we want the shoes to be fresh for whomever owns them next.”

If he looked me in the eye while sharing this and behaved maturely and respectfully, I would have had no ill feelings. The sad part is that his behavior cost him my referrals for others who have foot problems, as these shoes were touted by a friend with the same malady. They just didn’t work for my needs.

How are your people behaving when a customer returns an item? Are they treating the customer respectfully or not? If not, are other customers within earshot, watching and listening, thinking, “Is this how I’ll be treated if I have a problem with my purchase?” Probably.

Every business has unhappy customers. How they are treated will determine if they will get surly, return for future purchases, or refer others. It’s not hard to treat a customer well. But if your people aren’t trained and monitored they can behave like Andrew and not only lose a customer, but referrals as well as perhaps customers within earshot who are considering a purchase.

I can help you and your people know how to respond in these situations. Contact me and we can discuss what you need.

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One Comment on “How do your people react to dissatisfied customers?”

  1. Guy Farmer Says:

    Great insights. How we talk with customers makes a huge difference in how they perceive our business and whether they will be satisfied with the experience. I’ve found it helpful to be as flexible as possible with policies as well because it’s usually more beneficial to bend a policy and lose a couple of dollars in the short term than to lose a potential long-term customer and the referrals that might have come from them.


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