Customers want to support businesses that provide a valuable service or good, but those expectations are increasing every day. They also want to deal with businesses who are empathetic to their needs and are willing to listen. Brands that fail to adjust their product or service to be relevant to changes in customer circumstances are realizing, often too late, that customers will move on. One way that you can show customers that you care is to provide them with specific customer rights.
The first place customers are likely to look for their rights is on a brand's website. This gives everyone, customers and employees alike, a tangible list of guidelines to refer to if there is any doubt as to how to handle a particular issue. These typically include shipping and return policies or privacy policies that explain how their information is tracked, stored and used. But, these protections are now minimum expectations. Brands who prioritize service over short-term profit will present a customer bill of rights that goes beyond everyday transactions. Here are some additional areas to consider.
Clearly, the products sold on a reputable website are assumed to be safe for the consumer to use. Data security is the most relevant safety issue to retail today. Just as a property manager takes responsibility for a customer's safety when they walk in a store, ecommerce solution providers must provide an inpenetrable level of security for customer data. A major data breach can cripple a retailer by creating huge liabilities while destroying public trust.
Customers are demanding more information about the supply chain for the products they buy. Are the raw materials ethically sourced? Are the manufacturing conditions fair and safe for the laborers involved? Are efforts being made to reduce the environmental impact of the product before, during and after its usefulness expires. Many brands are differentiating themselves by excelling in the area of supply chain transparency.
Other retailers may choose to provide cost transparency. Everlane breaks down production costs (labor, materials, transporting the apparel, and duties) for all of its shoppers to see. Start-up retailer Brandless differentiates itself by exposing the cost of products without the "brand tax" that includes sunk costs of marketing and distributing a product.
Customers have access to a broad spectrum of information about every product in a store. Retailers can view this as a threat or an opportunity. Giving shopper the ability to shop in an "endless aisle" of inventory maximizes the selection that customers can pick from while a price match guarantee assures customers that they are paying a price that reflects market conditions. Denying shoppers this information limits their ability to choose.
Customers want to know what they can do if they have a problem. A customer bill of rights outlines how they can contact the merchant and what they can expect. Failing to provide a clear process or not setting up systems to immediately address customer concerns can push them to other avenues, like social media. Again, minimizing response time to negative social media is essential. Most fair-minded observers will appreciate a quick and thoughtful reply to a public customer complaint.
When you hear positive customer service stories, one common denominator seems to be respect. Proactively addressing and communicating a customer's rights shows them that they are being respected from the outset. Following through on those rights puts the merchant's best foot forward in addressing any issues, and earning repeat business and referrals.
Buy-In and Empowerment at All Levels
Outstanding customer service is a product of a corporate commitment that starts at the top. If associates question whether they will be supported in putting customers ahead of all else, then they will deliver inconsistent and often flawed service. Retailers who establish and maintain a singular focus on the rights of their customers will be rewarded.