Everyone knows good service when they see it: The restaurant with a line out the front door, the retail store with customers that come back again and again (even if the prices are higher) or the hotel with a year-long waiting list.
But how do you extract good service from the other businesses? You know, the ones with indifferent employees, shortsighted managers and generally unhappy customers.
Check out the latest scores from the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, and it’s obvious that there are a lot of “other” companies out there. As a consumer advocate, I’ve found that your experience doesn’t have to reflect the ACSI’s generally dismal scores, as long as you know about these secret weapons.
1. A camera
The last thing employees want to see when they’re delivering a substandard product or service is a shutterbug. If they think you might take a snapshot, or a video, of their incompetent actions, they’re far likelier to do the right thing. The presence of a camera alone is often enough. Try it sometime.
2. The contract
Who takes the time to go online and print the terms and conditions of a defective product? (Not many, in my experience.) When an employee sees you pulling up to a counter, paperwork in tow, they know they’re in trouble. The argument may be won before you even have to ask for something.
3. Appropriate attire
Face it, people do judge a book by its cover. When you walk into a store in cut-offs and flip-flops, you won’t be treated the same as if you were wearing a three-piece suit. I’m not suggesting you should dress up to go shopping; only that you should be careful about dressing down.
4. Good manners
Even employees who are openly hostile to customers can’t resist your smile, “pleases” and “thank-yous.” If you return their angry glares with pleasantness, you’ll get better service almost every time.
5. An inside contact
When things go wrong – and they eventually will when you’re dealing with a company that’s service-impaired – who are you gonna call? Having a name can be invaluable to getting the right service. I’ve collected some names on my customer-service wiki but it isn’t a comprehensive list. A little research (either before or after the transaction) will ensure you have someone to turn to when you need help.
What are your strategies for getting better customer service?
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.