Trying to prevent those consumer complaints
The Consumer Federation of America has released its annual list of the top ten consumer complaints made by Americans in 2011. Credit and debit came second only to the automotive industry, which means for us that Americans still aren’t happy about how their payments are being processed. But it’s not only about debit and credit. While aggressive debt collection tactics and billing and fee disputes were noted, complaints about products and services, fraud protection, and general misrepresentations across the board were rampant. With this in mind, we’ve come up with ten ways you can prevent being another complaint and another statistic next year. Here’s how:
1. Don’t be a car salesman:
There’s a reason the used car salesman is the ultimate cliché: Based on the list, customers still find their biggest frustration comes with automobile shopping. Whether they’ve bought a used-car lemon; had a shoddy repair; or been misled when it comes to finance and leasing; there’s no doubt that when it comes to taking pride in your product, the auto industry is behind the times. Back your product and make sure it’s one you can be proud of, by providing the best possible services and products to your customers – whichever industry you serve.
2. Give your customers multiple payment options:
Credit and debt was second only to car salesman for consumer complaints this year. Between mortgage scams, fraud, debt collection abuses and hidden fees, this area is a minefield when it comes to consumer complaints. Protect yourself and make sure you truly have your customers’ best interests at heart. Offer clear payment plans that are flexible and negotiable, offer multiple payment options, and use legitimate debt collection practices. Avoid getting to that stage by giving your customers opportunities to pay off their debts in installments. Systems such as RecurPay enables you to collect a monthly payment while ensuring the bill gets paid off in full over time.
3. Make sure your debt collection agency is following the rules:
These were deemed as one of the worst offenders of consumer practices. Ensure you remain compliant with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act by only enabling withdrawals from customer accounts by the account holder. Bottom line, only the account holder can give authorization to debit the account. Debt Collection Agencies are getting a bad reputation for debiting bank accounts without getting the proper authorization from the bank account holder.
4. Protect Your Customer’s Data:
Use fraud protection services and encryption to make sure that hackers can’t get a hold of your customer’s personal information, such as payments owed, name and address information, and bank account details. Fraud cases reported bogus companies contacting customers for amounts owed on legitimate debts and loans, yet high above the original amount, which were paid to the scammer without the company seeing a penny.
5. Enable payments on delivery:
Using online payment technology enables you to accept payments on delivery to ensure customer satisfaction and keep your company in the clear. Take customer credit card numbers on order placement to guarantee the order, then enable them to release funds after delivery is made. Equip your delivery or installation personnel with mobile payment devices that enables customers to pay for goods on the spot, once they are happy with the products or services received. Watch level of service improve, while customer satisfaction increases.
6. Educate your consumers:
Identity thieves are notorious for phishing unsuspecting customers by posing as representatives of well-known software or utility companies, banks or financial service companies. Teach your customers about your company policies to keep them from being duped and blaming your company for the indiscretion. Remind them that you will never contact them unexpectedly and ask for their personal information such as passwords, social security number or financial account numbers. If someone sees an email or receives a phone call that appears that it’s from your company, remind them to contact your representatives via official channels first to ensure that it’s legitimate. Don’t let it happen to your customers.
7. Differentiate your product so the scammers don’t have a chance:
Don’t allow dodgy vendors like ticket resellers, penny auction purveyors and eBay players to get in the game without a fight. Keep your products competitively priced and get ahead of the competition with superior product quality, customer service, and payment options.
8. Don’t misrepresent yourself online.
If you’re selling products on the Internet, congratulations! E-Commerce is an incredible opportunity for any retailer who knows how to navigate its complicated universe. It also presents a potential minefield for consumer complaints: Consumers complained about products that were never delivered, billed higher than originally priced, or inferior quality from the product description. Take care to represent yourself and your company accurately and deal with any consumer complaints reputably. Illustrate your products with clear images and descriptions, and highlight any shipping or handling fees clearly. Deliver products within the stipulated time frame, and create a clear return or refund policy so there are no disputes later on.
9. Wield your call center power wisely.
Be responsible. Don’t violate the Do Not Call Registry rights. If you already have a relationship with customers due to previous interactions, make sure you give them an opportunity to opt out immediately.
10. Be upfront about hidden charges.
Customers tend to complain about extra charges that come up on bills for utility and telecommunications companies. If you’ve set your customers up for auto-payment, make sure they receive an automatic invoice when payment is owed, so they know where their money is going. At E-Complish, we have taken the added step of sending a pre-notification email three to seven days ahead of time to remind the customer of an upcoming charge to their credit card or bank account. This simple email notification prevents unanticipated errors and increases customer loyalty.
The report also suggested several laws prevent these issues in future, include requirements for online businesses to have clear contact information, regulation for debt collection practices, and check verification systems to combat fake check scams. Call centers have been put under the spotlight for firmer regulation, and consumer protection to prevent unwanted online tracking has been much championed. Stay ahead of the pack and be a differentiator among your competitors. Install systems and processes that will keep your company above board, stand behind your products, and communicate with your consumers as much as possible. Avoid becoming a corporate cliché and serve consumers by learning from the list – you’ll be the real winner, and so will your customers.