Customer service? We retailers do our best to deliver the best, says Laura Daly. But, she asks, do we get the back-up we so urgently need from suppliers when a sale goes pear-shaped because a delivered dress is faulty?
You need nerves of steel not to wince when opening the business emails on a Monday morning. The whole making a quick scan of the subjects to put your mind at rest that you haven’t got a ‘situation’ on your hands from a weekend wedding makes me shiver.
Hands up those who haven’t felt physically sick at a fitting from hell? You’ve ordered the right size, the bride hasn’t changed shape, but she can’t get one leg in it. Or Mum loudly declares that the back, front and/or hem is wonky… You sigh, but then you realise, she’s right.
Why do we feel sick? It’s because we care. Upon discovering a problem, we’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that we have a happy bride. It’s in our DNA. We also know, however, that at this point we may well have to fight with the supplier for support.
It’s all very well knowing our legal rights and obligations, but an upset bride is not a ‘normal’ customer. Her hopes, dreams, aspirations and mental stability have just been shattered and, in her eyes, it is all our fault.
Once the words ‘refund’ and ‘compensation’ have been uttered, it doesn’t matter who did what and it doesn’t help trying to shift the blame, either. We need to be able to feel confident that, from that moment on, we have the complete backing of the supplier in question.
When things go wrong with the dress, everyone looks to the retailer to fix it. Legally, the buck stops firmly with us. We have to take the strain and ultimately resolve the problem to the satisfaction of the customer.
Knowing that we are not going to have to argue our case with the manufacturer but that we could simply return the dress for a replacement (or even refund) is the very least we should expect. We don’t want to lose time sending a gown back to be measured; we need one that fits and we need it within a timescale that’s acceptable to the customer. Similarly, we shouldn’t have to prove that a bride had a problem on her wedding day. Once we’re satisfied that the issue is genuine, we need our suppliers to support us.
When a bride contacts a supplier directly, she needs confirmation of what we have already told her – not a contradiction. Where appropriate, we need a swift refund on the cost of the dress, so that we may offer some compensation without being out of pocket. Flowers to the bride in acknowledgment of her complaint would be appreciated, too.
I believe that the majority of our customers’ issues can be resolved – with all parties happy – if the resolution is offered up immediately and without fuss. We can turn customer nightmares into positives if we have the right support from our suppliers. Everyone accepts that things can sometimes go wrong. The way that problems are handled makes all the difference in the world.
I’m happy to say that there are some companies that totally understand the fine line we retailers tread and are aware of the type of assistance we require, taking full ownership when things go pear-shaped.
Sadly, there are many more who simply won’t accept responsibility for supplying faulty goods. To those, I say: if you’re struggling to sell your designs, rather than just thinking of a brand overhaul, you may want to reconsider your customer service and store support policies, too.
Retailers are voting with their money and placing orders with those who not only give them the best choice of designs but who are also willing to accept responsibility for their products. We’re all in this together and we need each other!