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REIQ Journal : October 2008
20 Industry Practice Service please! Plain and simple complaints solutions By Ray Milton, XXXXXXXX, REIQ When American retail tycoon Harry Gordon Selfridge Sr visited London in 1906, he was deeply unimpressed by the quality of goods and level of customer service in existing British department stores. So, in typical tycoon fashion, Harry invested £400,000 in the unfashionable western end of Oxford Street and built his own store: the iconic and enormous Selfridges & Co, which is still the second largest shop in the UK (behind Harrods). MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOWEVER, Selfridge upped the ante on his competition when it came to customer service – indeed, he is credited with coining the phrase “the customer is always right” and ensured his employees were assisting customers, rather than aggressively selling something they didn’t necessarily want. Selfridge’s innovative approach to customer service ensured he was nothing less than incredibly successful: in 2003 Canadian billionaire Galen Weston purchased Selfridges for $958 million. The moral of the story? Good customer service breeds loyalty, success, and a reliable (and occasionally astronomical) income. If the customer is always right, however, then it’s yet to be explained why there are so many dissatisfied consumers. Indeed, the REIQ has noticed a marked trend in the way complaints ebb and flow. Broadly speaking, when the market is more subdued, the number of complaints increase significantly. Consumers seem less satisfied with the way agents do business when interest rates are high and the news media whispers about the R-word, but there are some simple strategies everyone can undertake to ensure that business practices remain sound. Remember, a dissatisfied buyer or seller will not forgive and forget once the economic climate is more buoyant. REIQ Journal October 2008