Consumer confidence was up in January, according to The Conference Board. It's Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 60.6, up from 53.3 in December. Consumer spending is also rising and all this may translate into a better 2011 for many businesses.
In all this good news, customer service expert Marsha Collier (right) hopes that companies won't forget some of the hard lessons they learned during the recession about building and retaining customer loyalty.
WalletPop asked the author of The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide what today's consumer bill of rights should look like. Here are her top seven recommendations:
Reach Out and Touch a Rep
All companies should prominently display their contact information. If they don't, forget about shopping there.
Another good way to get help is to check the business's Facebook page or, even better, its Twitter feed. "Dish Network follows someone back and handles the issue to the best of their abilities, and FedEx will give you a direct number to call or an email address," said Collier.
Expect Swift Response
If a customer service rep can't help you, then you should be able to talk to someone in higher authority. If the business doesn't do that, forget about it. After all, who has the time these days to speed-dial the customer complaint line?
Share a Common Language
"A right I would love to see more of: when I call a company, I would love that the customer reps did not read from a script and that the native language of the country is the one they can speak comfortably," said Collier. "This should happen in any country."
There Should Be a Grandfather Clause
You bought something and you find that, while your purchase is en route, the policy has changed. Don't buy unless you ask what its stance is on this issue.
Warranties Are Not Always Necessary
Before you invest in a warranty, take a hard look at the product. Most items fail within the first year, said Collier, and hence may be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. Still nervous? Then go to Squaretrade.com for the same warranty as most retailers offer.
"When I bought my washer and dryer at an appliance store, they quoted me their expensive warranty. I bought the same one at Squaretrade.com for under $100," said Collier.
Respect For the Customer
The customer isn't always right. But companies should treat you with respect when dealing with your complaints and questions about policies like restocking fees. If they don't, walk away.
With the rise of social media, businesses are increasingly aware of how much more powerful your voice is and how your opinions can influence those of your family and friends. Many are stepping up and trying to treat customers better. But for every good apple, there are bad apples.
Know Your Retailer
With rights come responsibilities. If you didn't do your due diligence and want to return something that doesn't fit the company's return policy, then you're out of luck.
"I bought a popcorn popper," explained Collier. "I thought it was small. It was my fault that I didn't look at the dimensions. I called the company and they said they would take it back. But the holidays came and I didn't get to it. It was my responsibility. I kept it."
If you place an order for the first time with a website, the kind that is an online version of a pop-up store, then make sure you safeguard yourself by paying with a service like Paypal
Customer Bill of Rights from Expert Marsha Collier