Handling Defective Products in Customer Service

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It’s been a bad day. Business is down and to top it off, you’ve had three customers call about a defective product.

But before you think the entire situation spells disaster, remember: there is no such thing as a manufacturer than makes every single piece of equipment perfectly. Defects happen. Instead of seeing it as a nuisance, view the entire scenario as an opportunity to make your business or the product better for your customers.

Here are some tips.

Record Customer Complaints
Your customer service team should carefully label every complaint that comes in and the solutions provided. This helps you assess common issues within the company from a customer’s perspective. It can also lead to faster resolution.

In terms of defective products, recording customer complaints can act as a red flag warning you of any potential issues with an item. If you contact your manufacturer to discuss product inspection issues, the defect can almost permanently be resolved.

Furthermore, records can demonstrate customer patterns and return rates. If you sell a low-quality product and know the average return rate for it, consider asking your supplier to send an extra percentage of the total order quantity in anticipation of defects.

Finally, these records can act as valuable resources in the event of a lawsuit. They can demonstrate the details of a customer’s complaints as well as provide evidence of the company’s response.

Establish Quality Guidelines with the Manufacturer
It’s important to immediately establish quality specifications with your manufacturer. Clarifying what defects are acceptable and unacceptable is the first step in avoiding future litigation or returns.

Create a classification system for potential defects and write out a checklist the manufacturer can use to inspect products. Doing so establishes upfront what is considered dangerous to a customer (a major defect) or what can still be sold (a minor defect).

“Perhaps one of the key elements in prevention,” states a defective product attorney with Newsome Melton Law, “is clear communication between the product’s supplier and the vendor.”

Wow the Customer
Great customer service goes a long way in staunching disappointment concerning a defective product. In returns, simplicity and efficiency are the best methods.

Have a clear return policy and train staff to remind customers of it in a friendly manner after every purchase. When customers return an item, don’t begin a detailed investigation that makes them feel like they are crime suspects. Instead, make the process painless and simple. Thank the customer for letting you know about the defect and ask for any improvements or suggestions.

Such a procedure may cost you upfront, but it pays off in the long-run when that customer comes back or tells others about the great service.

Use Data to Better the Product
If you are the creator of an item and are experiencing complaints, it can be a chance to create a better, more customer-friendly product. Consumer criticism can be priceless in discovering a product’s flaws and altering it to make it better.

Roberto Verganti of the Harvard Business Review points out that such information can lead to improvements or new directions. “If companies don’t change the lens through which they assess ideas,” he writes, “they won’t be able to identify the outsiders they should seek, know what questions to ask them, and recognize their most valuable input.”

Sometimes, the best ideas originate in criticism and in our efforts to make products better.

Know What to Do in the Case of an Injury
If a customer is injured because of a defective product, avoid phrases that promise any form of compensation or indicate an ongoing problem. Instead, be supportive and explain you’ll refer the complaint to the right person and will be in touch with your insurance company.

If you are handling anything written, be sure to run your response through your legal department for approval before sending.

From Defect to Discovery
When a defective product is brought to your attention, give it the consideration it and your customers deserve. Defects are not analogous to an exploding world; instead, they are an opportunity to fix any issues and make better choices for your customers.

Maybe the day isn’t so bad after all.

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