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Tips for Getting Better Customer Service During the Holidays

December 7, 2009
Times Observer
You've made your holiday list and checked it twice, but what happens when the salesperson helping you is naughty, not nice? Crowded stores, long lines, low inventory and cranky shoppers rushing to find that perfect holiday gift can often lead to a "perfect storm" of bad service.

That's why many retailers are ensuring that they have service quality systems in place to avoid the typical holiday mishaps between shoppers and service staff, according to the American Society for Quality which provides service quality training for many industries including retail.

"The top four causes of customer dissatisfaction are out of stock items, discontinued items, returns and shipping charges," says John Goodman, ASQ customer service expert and vice chairman of TARP the world's premier customer experience agency. "These are issues that are easily resolvable if sales staff has the right tools and training."

When there's a service problem, Goodman advises that it's important to remain calm, outline the facts clearly and state exactly what reparation is desired. Don't forget to recognize good service with a thank you.

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Courtesy ARAcontent

While many retailers will make an extra effort to ensure excellent customer service this holiday season, Goodman suggests that customers take these steps to help ensure a positive sales experience:

• Get to know the sales clerks at your favorite stores. This ensures that you will be in the loop regarding stores sales and events. A salesperson who knows you may also be more apt to help if a problem does arise.

• Research store policies before you buy. Being aware of policies regarding cash refunds or sale merchandise returns can help you avoid problems later on.

So what happens when you run into a problem? Goodman offers these tips for successfully handling service complaints.

• Take three deep breaths - when you are upset you may not think clearly and therefore often don't present your case logically.

* Tell the company rep that you know that the problem is not their fault - this reduces their defensiveness.

• After outlining the facts, state exactly what you want the rep to do for you - if you don't they might go off in the wrong direction in developing a response.

• Don't ask for cash compensation for your time - companies can almost never do that, but they can give you credit toward your bill.

• Never use profanity - most reps are authorized to hang up on you if you do - and it is not fair to the rep who did not cause the problem.

• If you have been a long-term customer, point that out but don't exaggerate - employees can often access your actual purchase history.

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