Body Shop Twenty Questions

My wife was shopping at the Body Shop recently when her request for a refund turned into twenty questions from the twenty-something clerk.

Body Shop is a great store that specializes in environmentally friendly products for health and beauty and other stuff. Like many retailers, I think they focus too much on their products and not enough on their service. Here’s a hint: we’re all in the service business. Every customer purchase, even if it’s online, has a customer experience component.

Retail is a highly competitive industry these days with products available over the internet from around the world. There’s a huge amount of competition for everyone’s customers. So, when you get a real, live customer (or three) in your store, it’s a very good thing. Back to the refund…

My wife wanted to return a purchase made earlier that day, everything still in its original wrapper, sales receipt at hand. The twenty-something sales clerk then proceeded to grill my wife with twenty questions about why the products weren’t suitable and so forth. My wife held firm and requested a refund. Reluctantly, the clerk processed the refund realizing she wasn’t going to win this argument (I’ve had the similar feeling). However, the refund was for sixty cents less than the original purchase, likely due to taxes on a free membership.

“Why is the refund less than the receipt?” my wife asked. “I don’t know” said the clerk, and she added “I guess you’ll have to accept the lower amount of refund or not be allowed to refund your products.” My wife, demonstrating both assertiveness and restraint to show our daughters how to negotiate, said, “No, it’s not the amount. It’s the principle and your company owes me sixty cents.” The clerk, clearly being outgunned on both strategy and tactics, called her manager, who appropriately advised to just give my wife the money and write the difference on the receipt.

The story illustrates how large, national chains who spend millions on branding, still struggle with basic training on customer services. Perhaps they need military style bootcamp training for customer service where the basics are drilled into recruits so they react appropriately and automatically.

The customer is not always right; however the right customer (of the type you want) usually is. A mom with two almost teenage daughters in tow (who can both walk to the mall and spend their own money) represent a pretty strong customer demographic.

In your business, are your front line employees trained to respond appropriately to customer problems? In business, anyone can drag an SKU over a scanner. But it takes skill and intentional training to respond to a complaint, empathise, acknowledge responsibility, resolve the situation and leave your customer wanting to do business with you again. Or, they’ll typically complain to at least nine people. The manager handled the situation appropriately. Why couldn’t the employee? What happens in your business?

Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Phil Symchych

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