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Making the Most of Product Pitfalls

What Emergency Medical Teams Teach Us about Customer Service

When a product or service fails, it gives your company a black eye. But you can profit from the ensuing complaints if you understand the nature of product pitfalls, listen carefully to your customers’ needs, and act quickly to find a solution.

The quality pitfall

Some of the toughest complaints to handle are those leveled at product quality. Common complaints about quality include:

  • the product doesn’t look like it does in the advertisement,
  • the product looks cheap and is of poor quality,
  • the product packaging is damaged or falling apart,
  • the product was substituted without permission, and
  • the product’s assembly components are missing.

While you are not in a position to re-engineer the product or packaging, you can address most of these complaints with a timely refund, replacement, or exchange. If you are substituting the product without the customer’s permission, you will almost certainly receive complaints. If the product is out of stock, give the customer the option of waiting, canceling, or choosing a substitute.

The damaged or defective pitfall

Two other common pitfalls involve damaged and/or defective products. Handling these kinds of complaints requires quick action, powerful interdepartmental communication, and customer follow-up.

Do not dispute claims involving defects. Instead, try to determine whether it is an operating or operator problem. Act immediately on reports of damage. Find out what the customer wants to do and be ready to offer recommendations and options. Whether you need to replace the entire shipment, or only a portion of it, try to do it overnight.

The warranty pitfall

There’s no certain way to avoid disputes over warranties. The terms of a warranty are not always easy to read, and many customers either avoid reading them or simply don’t understand what they’ve read. As a result, customers commonly dispute or request:

  • coverage of failed parts,
  • the definition of “wear and tear” extensions of expired warranties, and
  • labor costs not covered by the warranty.

The best protection against warranty disputes is to make certain the customer has access to the terms of the warranty before they purchase a product. Customer service representatives should understand the terms and be able to explain them to the customer. If an extended warranty is an option, you may want to offer it at the time of purchase, then use the opportunity to explain the warranty terms and answer any questions the customer may have.

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