If you’ve experienced a hairdresser spending more time chatting than attending to your locks, a plumber who plucks prices out of thin air, or a barista whose cranky expression is enough to turn your flat white sour – then this guide is for you.
Ruth Trewhella, as spokesperson at TrueLocal, is a seasoned professional in helping Australians find their best local services. One of Australia’s trusted business directories and review sites, TrueLocal attracts 5.7 million unique customers[i] and 3.3 million business searches every month.
Ruth says, “Avoiding poor service mostly comes down to your skills in sourcing and communicating with businesses. By learning a few simple rules, you can change an experience from blood boiling to mind blowing.”
At the coalface of interactions between customers and small businesses daily, Ruth brings you his insider tips and insights in this guide to common customer service gripes.
- The long wait. Ever made to wait 15, 30, 45 minutes – even after you’ve booked? “When you arrive, let a business know you have to be out by a certain time and that you may have to cancel the job if they can’t see you at your booked time. Most services don’t want to lose business and will try everything they can to fit you in,” says Ruth.
- The unexpected bill. You were quoted $200 but the final invoice states $500. Gulp! Try to avoid hidden fees by asking for cost breakdowns upfront, and an understanding of what’s fixed and what’s subject to change. This will enable you to negotiate at the time of booking. “After the final quote is confirmed, let the business know you expect to be informed of any changes to the final price - and how you expect to be informed” Ruth says.
- The call centre merry-go-round. Been at the receiving end of multiple automated voicemail prompts on a single call before being directed to the wrong department? Had to deal with an overseas call-centre operator’s formulaic spiel? “This is probably among the worst experiences for customers, and my advice is to use online chat or email services if available, where responses are generally faster.”
- You’re the apprentice guinea pig. Had a jittery junior apply bleach to your locks, keeping you on emotional tenterhooks throughout your salon visit? “Communicate your expectations at the time of booking,” Ruth says. “It can really help if you explain you’ve had poor experiences with apprentices in the past and that you’re looking for a service you can stick with. Many small businesses rely on repeat business so will be more than willing to meet your needs.”
- Mr Fix It turns out to be Mr Spoil It. Why is there a mini-tsunami in your kitchen days after you’ve paid more than $200 for a big plumbing job? “For many, dealing with tradespeople is like venturing into unknown territory. Scanning ratings and reviews on reputable websites such as TrueLocal can help you find good services. For large jobs, find businesses that will view a job and quote for free, and will fix a problem at no cost to you if the problem still exists afterwards.”
- You’re the low-priority customer. Waited days for a call back? Has the business blamed other staff for their lack of TLC, or had D&Ms with customers in the middle of your job? “Often small businesses are so busy, they might realise they’ve dropped their service standards,” Ruth explains. “Don’t hesitate to bring it to their attention at the time, letting them know how it makes you feel – in a diplomatic way. Let the business know how you think they can rectify the issue. You are likely doing a favour for them and for other customers.”
- Rude service. Whether rudeness is sparked by a return, a complaint by you, or simply a bad day on their part, this is likely the worst customer gripe. “The important thing here is to not get emotional,” Ruth says. “Try to remain positive. Your remaining pleasant will be a stark contrast to their rude behaviour – and in more cases than not, they will notice it and become more attentive. Negotiations rarely have a good outcome when emotions are high.”