It’s a unique attribute of Furniture Today’s SEO that consumers who google retailer or manufacturer brands often come across stories we’ve written at the top of their search results. As a consequence every day — that’s not hyperbole, but documented reality — I receive one or more phone calls or emails from someone looking to resolve an issue with their furniture. It could be anything from searching for replacement parts to seeing if the company that made their dining room suite is still in business.
Most often it’s because they have a problem with a delivery or a damaged piece of furniture, and they’re seeking a resolution. It would be easiest simply to say, “sorry, wrong number” and hang up, but I’m not built that way, and frankly, it’s a great form of consumer research into a remarkably widespread consumer pain point.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, people have taken to Google because their initial interaction with store-level employees or delivery people did not resolve the situation. In fact, in a frighteningly high number of instances, it’s actually made it worse. I’ve had enough jobs to know that dealing with angry customers is stressful and can make someone defensive, but I’m still surprised how creative some store employees are at finding ways to insult and enrage customers.
One woman shared her story of being told three different stories by three different store employees, only to have an assistant store manager tell her not to waste her time contacting the CEO because “he doesn’t bother with little people like you.” Now the obvious thing is the “little people,” as in irrelevant, insult. But think about the breakdowns that had to occur for three different employees — customer service, delivery, store level — to each give a customer an entirely different answer and expectation on solving a single problem.
In most organizations, people in these positions are not among the highest paid; likely just the opposite. But they are the ones creating the impression consumers take away with them. It takes time, money and effort to train effective RSAs. Getting a customer through the doors today is a heroic accomplishment. Getting them to come back repeatedly is the holy grail of retail.
Yet all of that goes out the window when one truck driver, customer service operator or simply someone answering the phone is rude, impatient or offers incorrect information. Time and again when I have these conversations, people thank me for listening, even though I can’t do a thing for them. Invariably they say, “You’re the first person who actually listened.” The lesson for me is: Never underestimate the power of attentive, empathetic listening, even in the face of an inability to offer resolution.
Now obviously there are those who are never satisfied or who are gamers of the system. That’s not something you can control. What you can control is how you train customer-facing employees, how you build a service culture and how effectively you communicate across every touch point of your organization. Don’t let your lowest paid employees cost you the most.