Handling customer grievances

My post Sweet gesture or publicity stunt? was about a customer who received a package from Snapdeal containing a bar of Vim soap and a brick instead of the Samsung Core 2 Duos smartphone ordered and paid for by him. The issue was resolved a week later, but it’s clear that Snapdeal took their time to respond to this customer’s complaint, if one goes by his first comment on Facebook: “Beware of Snapdeal guys!! It’s a fraudulent e-retail company. We have lost our money and there’s been no response from Snapdeal whatsoever.”

Quite a few persons have found that, when they have complained regarding defective products, poor service, wrong billing, etc., the supplier of the product/service does not respond or claims that there was no mistake on their part.

How should customer grievances be handled? I will share one of my own experiences.

About 16 years back, my company had introduced a foreign manufacturer’s brand in India by displaying the manufacturer’s machines at an international trade show at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. Most of the exhibitors at such trade shows try to ensure that their exhibits sport ‘SOLD’ boards. Despite our brand being new to India, we had managed to secure confirmed orders for all 3 displayed machines from one customer well before the trade show had started.

Immediately after the completion of such trade shows, the customs clearance of machines sold during or before the trade show is done at the venue, with the venue being treated as the point of entry into India. Machines that remain unsold are ‘re-exported’ to the manufacturers.

After this particular trade show, the customs clearance of all sold machines was delayed by almost one month for some reason.

Immediately after our customer’s machines reached his factory, our service team started the installation and commissioning work. Our Service Manager reported to me that, on a couple of occasions, the customer had remarked bitterly that he had incurred a loss of about Rs. 150,000 due to the delay in customs clearance.

The customer had not spoken about this matter to me. Neither the customer nor we were responsible in any way for the delay in customs clearance. However, I felt that it was not fair that our customer had to suffer this loss for no fault of his. I reported the matter to my Managing Director and suggested that we should pay the customer Rs. 75,000 as a gesture of solidarity. My MD accepted my suggestion without any question.

The day after the machines had been commissioned, my MD and I visited the customer. After ascertaining that the customer was completely satisfied with the installation and commissioning, my MD handed over a cheque for Rs. 75,000 to the customer and explained that this was our way of sharing our customer’s anguish.

The customer was pleasantly shocked!

Did we do this as a ‘sales strategy’? No. We did this because we felt this was the correct thing to do. (16 years back, when this incident took place, Rs. 75,000 was a much more substantial amount than it is today!)

What do you, as an observer, have to say about how we handled this customer grievance?

How would you have felt if you were the customer?

What would you have done if you were the supplier?

(This is a re-post, with a few changes of Handling customer grievances, which was originally posted on October 01, 2013.)

3 thoughts on “Handling customer grievances

  1. Such a gesture from any company is very rare indeed. Hats off to you and your company for doing what you did. I have often felt that customer service is not really something valued in Indian corporate scene. So reading your story gives me hope 🙂

  2. its a rare thing indeed..I havent heard it even once in my life…

    customer in India is valued only till item is sold, after that he is not important.

  3. n am speechless. Wat u asked for and wat ur MD agreed to, is something really applaudable, and much needed in the growing corporate culture, where kids r taught only how to make max money, irrespective of who’s pocket they cut.

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