We are all consumers, of food, music, movies, TV, the Internet, clothing and accessories, and many others. We all experience good and bad purchases, also good and bad customer service. To make the most use of your time and money, here are my recommendations on how to be a good customer.
1.) Do your research.
The Internet is packed full of information that when you sift through the important from the rubbish stuff that it’s indeed a great place to research for items you really need or want to purchase. It also gives you an opportunity to compare prices way before arriving at the store. You can ask questions from customer service personnel but please note that not all of them are knowledgeable about what you’re looking for. The more information you research, the more you know about the product and how it can help you solve a problem.
2.) Ask intelligent questions.
Whether over the phone, through email, or in person at the shop, there’s nothing wrong in asking questions. Especially if you’re buying items that need a considerable amount of money, such as laptops, smartphones, appliances, cameras, cars, and many others. I’ll just use myself as an example. I don’t mind asking as many questions as I’d like, because I have the right to be aware of the features, the pros and cons of a product. But based on experience, most people don’t like asking too many questions because they think they bother people. Some customer service people know what they are talking about while others don’t care. So as a consumer and customer, be proactive and take responsibility for the money you use to purchase the item by knowing what you are actually paying for.
On the other hand, there are customers who simply ask questions when they can actually do it themselves. I have many examples of this but I’ll mention a few notable ones. A customer asked me to transfer her call to a makeup counter but is actually in another location that the department store doesn’t even own or operate. I had to tell her that the company doesn’t own the franchise she mentioned and that if she has a smartphone or is near a computer, she has to locate the contact number herself. Another customer said she bought an item from a shop in her hometown and the item’s brand name my department store happens to also sell, and she would like to know if she can exchange the item with the one here in the shop. I had to tell her that the company would not allow any returns, exchanges, or refunds when it’s obvious that the item wasn’t bought in our shop. I recommended her to contact the shop in her hometown, return the item and ask for a refund so she can use the money to buy it from the department store’s website where I’m working at. So be mindful of the questions you ask the customer service or manager please.
3.) Know the store’s terms and conditions (laybys/layaways, credit card surcharges, returns, exchanges, refunds, credit notes, store credit card applications, reward or loyalty programs). And always remember that they can change these T&Cs with or without prior notice.
Before paying for an item at the counter, ask questions if needed. Read the fine print on the receipt. If purchased over the phone or on the website, ask the person when calling them up about these T&Cs or read them on the website. Pay attention especially when you do a lay-by or layaway, when using a credit card (some companies have surcharge fees), and also the shipping, refund and exchange policies. Not all companies have the same policies. For example, Company A accepts refund when you change your mind about a purchase but Company B may not, even when both are in the same industry.
Even a company has different policies for returns, refunds and exchanges when an item is purchased at the counter versus purchased online. For example, the shop where I went to return a yoga mat said that they will process refunds when the items are purchased online, but they will only issue credit notes when purchased in store. The reason is that inside the store, the customer has the chance to inspect the items and decide if it works for them while the items posted on the website the customer only sees the pictures. Also take note that some companies may not accept product returns when it’s because of hygiene considerations, such as lingerie/underwear, socks, especially when you’ve worn them. So don’t say to a customer service person, “But Company A will accept this, why can’t you?” Because each company handles these things differently. And also these policies always change without prior notice, and whether you like it or not, just deal with it.
Many people have advised for ages to read the fine print in credit card applications, and it needs to be reiterated here too. Far too many people assume that all companies do things the same way, charge the same rates or something like that. It’s now more important than ever to be mindful of everything related to your purchase and keep receipts for your account statement or if you placed an item on lay-by or layaway. This is to ensure that your money goes to the right item.
4.) When there’s information missing from the website that you think is important for other customers to know, speak up and let the company know about it.
For example, if the size and thickness of the yoga mat is not mentioned on the website, do let the company know that it needs to be mentioned on the website so that other customers will benefit from that information without having to call them all the time just to ask. Not all yoga mats have the same sizes and degree of thickness, by the way.
5.) When you do receive exceptional and impeccable service, let the company know about it so the manager can pass it on to the staff member who attended to you.
6.) When making a complaint, think first how you will raise up the issue.
It’s much better to think it through and choose your words carefully before calling, approaching, or emailing customer service. Breathe slowly and deeply so that your awareness of what you need to say would be much better than when you let your emotions do the talking. I have experienced customers whose emotions get the best of them, and so they end up being unnecessarily angry at the staff or worst bullying them. Now don’t be surprised if the manager and customer service people will mention that they don’t tolerate bullying or taunting inside the store. So the lesson is if you are calmer in raising up the issue, the more likely you will get a positive response.
7.) When returning an item, because of a change of mind, you actually had allergies because of it, or it’s actually much smaller than what’s mentioned in the package, please do it as soon as possible.
It’s always good to provide pictures as evidence to back up your complaint. For example, I once returned a food item because when I opened the package, I knew it was way smaller than what I was used to seeing. And it was confirmed when I put it on a kitchen scale. Sent them an email, provided photos of it (even though the company may or may not require it), and then received free vouchers from them so I can use it to purchase in the future. And please do it as soon as you notice it. I’ve heard from makeup consultants that they’ve experienced customers returning items when they complained about having allergies, but upon inspection the contents are already half or completely used up. Of course, they have to say no to this because these cannot be resold anymore. Also there are customers returning clothing even when they have worn it and there were stain marks on them. Now this will be at the discretion of staff members especially when some are vigilant on this.
8.) Be mindful of your purchases please and really ask yourself many times if you really need it.
I have heard that customers return items in the shop, knowing they have already worn it and possibly have stains on them. And I hope customer service reps are mindful of this possibility. Also, if a customer constantly return items and request for refund, a serial returner of sorts, he or she will be on that department’s records of who the staff need to be vigilant of.
Be aware that companies always want to earn more money every year and so being aware and mindful of your own purchases would help you avoid the “buyer’s remorse” feeling.
9.) The power of price matching.
I just learned this recently when I visited a shop to negotiate with the shop attendant about an item I’m very interested in buying. He mentioned that if I had bought the item I already had from them instead of the other store, they would have matched the price and given me discount on another item. The lesson I learned from this is that when I buy items that requires a considerable amount of money, I need to ask around for their price matching offers. Whichever offers the most benefits is the one I will consider buying the item from.
If you have any other tips on how to be a savvy customers, please share your thoughts below. Until then, happy shopping!