In March I will be celebrating 10 years working for the same company. As I mentioned before, I have been working in customer service all my life. I started answering consumers for this company about 2 months after I joined because I had the knowledge to answer their questions. It's with time that I discovered that investigation skills are just an added bonus when doing consumer relations.
If you are into freebies, please raise your hand. I see a lot of hands up in the air (and wave 'em like you just don't care). Most of us are quite happy when we can get free goods. What I came to discover is that some people make it their way of life!
I also realized that consumer relations also means frequent callers. If I pick up the phone and recognize the consumer by his or her voice, in most cases, it is not a good sign! It means we've been talking often. I have heard stories about deceased husbands, children who don't visit their parents anymore, upcoming or past surgeries, traumatizing car accidents, husbands who have cheated, etc. Although I will not name my employer, let me confirm that I work for a manufacturer and not for a social help line. But people get lonely and they know they will get someone on the line. And if I have spoken to them before, I have become somewhat of a friend! I'm a sucker for the elderly. I always think to myself: "And if this were my grandmother, I would want her to have someone listen to her". Then again, I was there for my grandmother and she didn't need to call strangers to have company, but that's a whole different and sad story!
There was this one woman who lived in the country. Let's call her Jane Doe. Jane had called numerous times to get discount coupons, to exchange a product, to complain about this, that and the colour of the sky. In good consumer relations, we address those issues. My personal policy is not that the client is always right. It is to let the client think they are right and, in the end, to leave them with a pleasant feeling. But not at any cost. I don't believe that knowingly getting screwed over by consumers is part of good relations for a company. So Jane here is starting to exceed the limit of what is acceptable. (Personally, if I had to call a manufacturer 10 times due to a defect or issue I have with their product, I think I would switch!) When a person is that persistent and finds a problem with every item she purchases, it raises a red flag for me. ADDICTED TO FREEBIES ALERT!
One morning, my phone rings. The woman on the line starts to tell me her story and as she's talking, I am searching through my database. I know this voice but cannot quite identify it. I ask her name and she answers (modified information here) "Mary Smith". Basically, she is asking for her money back because she is not satisfied with her purchases, which represents roughly $75 to $100. I take down her phone number and tell her that I have an emergency and must let her go, but that I will call her back to solve the issue within the next 30 to 45 minutes.
I take this time to gather all my information because I will need to be ready to stand my ground. First things first. She tells me she bought the goods at the (modified info again) BLA BLA store. Problem is, our products are not sold at any BLA BLA store in North America at the moment. So she's already lying to me. Come on! If you're going to take me for a ride, make sure you check the map first! The goods she is asking for a refund on are (modified information) eggs, butter and bread.
I finally call her back within the hour. She picks up the phone.
-Hello, may I speak to Jane Doe please?
-Hello, may I speak to Jane Doe please?
-This is she.
And my ball is already rolling. She doesn't know she's getting a ride in my passenger's seat and I know very well which roads I will be taking. I explain that I am calling back concerning the refund request she made earlier. I think we were in January or February then.
"I don't know if you remember", I say, "but I had sent you a letter last October further to a complaint you had made then. I sent you many goods and, along with those goods, I included a letter which listed all the items I was sending: eggs, butter and bread. You are therefore asking me to reimburse you goods I had sent you for free 3 months ago. Second, our products are not presently sold at BLA BLA stores in this country. Last but not least, when you picked up the phone earlier, I asked to speak with Jane Doe. When we first spoke an hour ago, you informed me your name was Mary Smith. For these reasons, I am sure you will understand I am unable to grant you the reimbursement you are asking for". "Yes, I understand", she let out in a whisper. I wished her a good day and hung up. I haven't heard from Jane Doe nor Mary Smith ever since. I wonder why.
I love doing what I do. I want to offer excellent service to all those who contact me. I don't believe that the best consumer relations or customer service is based on freebies. It's based on solving actual issues and keeping true customers happy. That's my point of view and I'm sticking to it!