Friday, February 26, 2010

Nice Customers Finish Last.

So true. And I'm not thinking of the rude that elbow forward and shout their request at the unfortunate vendor, shoving you aside. But in Switzerland if you're weak, you're out. And not only here.

I've had so much experience with customer service (who hasn't?) and I can tell you one thing. Nothing is set in stone, mostly the rules of refunds and returns, and additional services and speed of service, and... Basically all the fringe that you get with a product. Of course, the price's on the tag, usually can't bargain, but it's not totally unimportant what you get with a product. These are mostly things you don't pay for but can determine lots of things, to begin with your mood.

So here's the deal: there are lots of fringe benefits to enjoy in Switzerland (and elsewhere where customer service flourishes, not in Hungary though) but if you don't ask for them, no one will tell you they exist.

The other phenomenon I'm a big fan of is called chasing. It doesn't mean that you actually chase shop assistants around. It rather refers to kind emails and calls and smiles directed at the said assistant/online vendor/transporter inquiring after your purchase.

The best example I can think of for the first one is queuing up in CH. Everyone's smiling, everyone's very polite, but the first to catch the eye of the lady at the counter is served first, regardless of the queue. If there's an obvious line of people waiting (e.g. train stations), politely wait for your turn. But in most shops the assistant looks around with a smile, saying something like bonjour, madame, mademoiselle...? -- which translates: I'm here to help you but have no idea who arrived first. This is your cue. Step in. Smile. Order. No one will think you're rude, they'll be browsing the shop some more.

Also, at supermarkets, ask for collectibles like points or small toys for the kids or vouchers. Go like I've heard you had some vouchers over 100 francs of purchase? Oh, so you don't have it anymore? Well, thanks! and smile. The same goes for special wrapping, gift cards, guarantee certificates.

BF's just returned a (very expensive) watch. Vendor said it would be 6 weeks (!) to get it repaired. BF said he could no way be without a watch for six weeks. Vendor: then we'll just exchange it. On the spot. In 2 minutes. You see what I'm talking about?

Also, I've been waiting for my engagement ring for ever. Seen the posts, know what I mean. According to the website (it has a tracking option) it's supposed to be shipped today. Well, our correspondent wrote it will be shipped like 3 days later. I lost my patience. We mailed them kindly, asking what the hell was going on. And they apologized in a whole page only to let us know they'll handle our affairs express. Well, see? Patient and nice customers sit at home while their goods are weeks late because vendors (well, let's face it, justly) assume that they can wait.

What's the bottom line? It's a tough world out there for customers. And it's especially good to know if you're planning a wedding. I don't think it's a surprise that I won't risk it again with the wedding rings. Blue Nile's jewelry's extremely beautiful (and their prices are nice too!) but I don't know. It's just too annoying. I can imagine the groom nervously texting on his blackberry before the ceremony to check whether they've shipped the rings... It's just not my kind of fun.

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