Improve over the phone service or pay the price!

phone, iphone, mobile, mcommerceCustomers are sometimes at the mercy of the retailer’s suppliers, especially when it comes to issues regarding warranty and service. Therefore, as a customer it is worthwhile to speak directly to the supplier before making a decision to purchase that brand. As a retailer, it is worthwhile to put yourself in the position of your customer and, likewise, try calling a supplier.

For a different reason, I recently needed to call a supplier. I had researched an appliance on the Choice website, and the item was not available anywhere in Australia. The product was the second best recommended by Choice, which begs the question why it was on their website (for which one pays good money). Certainly one doesn’t expect reviews to change daily, but to remove a product that isn’t available can’t be that hard for Choice, right?

Anyway, the reason for calling the supplier was to establish which product had superseded the older model. The suppler, which I will not name, is a high quality German appliance distributor. It is a top dollar brand and one can therefore reasonably expect top-notch service.

We all know the length of time it often takes to get through to an actual living, breathing person and this can be reasonable/acceptable, or unreasonable/unacceptable. In this case it was clearly unacceptable and I’m awaiting a response from a letter I sent to the CEO in this regard. Incidentally, I purchased the brand anyway as I have confidence in its quality, if not their service.

Many organisations these days are not geared towards receiving queries by letter – nor responding by letter. The telephone and email have largely replaced the need for letters, which take time to reach their destination, time to answer, and time for the response to reach the sender. This is all at additional cost compared to the other options, and ultimately this cost must be borne by the customer. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to deal with matters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

However, if organisations do not provide reasonable telephone access (and this includes government and other organisations quite apart from retailers and their suppliers), then rather than waste the customer’s time, it leaves the customer with little option but to write.

When I exercise this option, I choose not to provide a telephone number or email address – purely as a matter of principle. The principle is that if my time has been wasted, the organisation whom I am dealing with must learn that they likewise will suffer similar consequences. If this means their costs increase, so be it. They pass this on to the customer who pays more, while the supplier’s competitor, who is hopefully running a more efficient operation, keep their prices down.

Therefore the lesson for retailers and suppliers is to make access (to you, by your customers – and by your would-be customers) as easy as possible. And the lesson to customers is to resort to snail mail if you are not receiving reasonable telephone service from retailers and suppliers.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at