This past Christmas, I ordered a couple gifts for my wife through Red Envelope. The shipments arrived on separate days, but each one was in a box that appeared to have been packed in a hurry - items were rattling around inside, and both packages looked like they'd been opened, then taped shut again. One of the two boxes as still open at one end, when I received it. Fortunately, the contents were unharmed.
Several days later, I received an email from Red Envelope, asking me to complete a satisfaction survey. I did. I told them that I (and more important, my wife) loved the products, but found the packaging to be sub-par.
A Redbox Customer Service Representative replied with an apology, and a 20% discount off of my next purchase. He made no mention of Redbox taking steps to correct the problem that I reported - shoddy packaging.
I was disappointed with the response - I - the customer - wanted to talk about fixing a packaging problem, and they - the seller - wanted to get me to stop crying by sticking a 20%-off-my-next-purchase lollipop into my mouth.
This appears to be a common practice among merchants - when a customer complains, shut them up by giving them a discount. How about addressing the actual problem, and telling the customer about that?
As customers, we like to be taken seriously; we like to be treated as adults. Sure, receiving a discount is always nice, but a seller should not lead with the discount. Instead, try the following 3-step "Triple-A" approach to responding to a customer complaint:
- Apologize - Give a sincere, empathetic (but not over-the-top) apology for whatever it was that the customer complained about.
- Address the issue - Speak directly to the issue raised by the customer; seek more input from them; discuss (but don't defend) why the issue occurred, and what (if known) will be done to prevent the issue from occurring in the future.
- Add value to the conversation - Only after you've you've covered the first two steps, should you present the discount. At this point, you'll have established credibility by talking about what the customer wanted to talk about, and the customer will more likely accept the gift with open arms.
When customers complain, or offer constructive criticism, it's your job to take them seriously, and treat them seriously. Discounts alone are dismissive.
You wouldn't want your customers to be dismissive of you and your business, would you???