Saturday, September 26, 2009

Consumer Insights; Am I doing the right thing?

“Nice to see, but consider it sold if broken” or “No replacement or return of any items once purchased” used to be standard caveats in many stores a decade ago. I was shocked and surprised to see the ‘no replacement’ warning on the bill recently and started wondering if we have progressed at all with regards to consumer rights and consumerism.

I could not understand the concept of no items can be replaced or returned. This smacks of totalitarian attitude and assumes that the customer is actually more of a “con” sumer.

In that context the kirana store’s attitude used to be and is still a refreshing change. Many a time I have seen products including bags of rice being sent back and the same being replaced.

How does the kirana store owner manage to do it whereas many larger stores are afraid (Yes, afraid!!) to extend this basic customer service?

Simply because the he is a far more astute businessman completely tuned into the basic psyche of a consumer. Almost everyone has experienced the phenomenon called post purchase dissonance. Which basically translates into concern/ worry/ dissatisfaction with regard to the choices made and the product(s) purchased.

The Kirana guy eliminates this by giving the customers a psychological comfort which over a period of time grows into the foundation of his business - the trust of the customer - and therefore a habit to purchase from that store.

Most Corporate Retailers have taken this lesson, but whether it is to heart or is it lip service is something that I leave you to think about. The reason for my ambivalence is, although most of them have a replacement or returns policy, the on-the-ground experience for a customer who wishes to avail this is still not a very pleasant experience.

The usual culprits - internal policies, procedures and paper work ensures that the staff are apprehensive in extending this without any questions asked and in the process make the entire consumer experience most painful.

Lastly, if I don’t have the confidence that the retailer would support me in my moment of post purchase dissonance or even a genuine quality problem, would my loyalty be with that retailer?
Very doubtful.


Suchi Arya said...

I had a wonderful experience actually. Westside had a policy of exchanging shoes for an X amount of time. The leather of my shoe was definitely faulty as it started wearing off after a couple of weeks. I brought it back, without any bills. They checked it on my membership card and exchanged it for me happily. Matter of 5 minutes! :)

VR said...

Guess your membership card helped, plus the fact that there is a large % of private label sold and that helps identify returns easily. If these two factors were different how would you be treated and therefore how would you feel!!

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