Image by: douglemoine
By Josie Alexander
If you own a small business, your goal (even more important than making money) is to please your customer. Consumer happiness should be your top priority. Some businesses falter on that, because they place their needs over their clientele.
The top 8 consumer complaints (as compiled by the Consumer Federation of America’s Annual Report is a list of the top complaints that consumers have with products and services.
So how do you use this information? If you are a part of the general public, watch out for these shady offers and shoddy work. If you are an entrepreneur and your type of business is on the list, pay close attention to the complaint. Remember, this may be what your customers are saying.
#1) Household Goods and Home Solicitations
Door to door salesmen lead us into the list this year. If you are a business owner and this is how you advertise or run your business, consider a different advertising method. The days of door-to-door encyclopedia and vacuum cleaner salesmen are gone. People are a bit uneasy when someone shows up to their door with a suitcase full of kitchen knives. Truthfully, I can’t really blame them.
So what do business owners do? Find a different way of selling your product. As far as household goods are concerned, if you offer a warranty, make sure that you are fulfilling them. Otherwise, don’t offer it.
#2) Real Estate
This is new on the list for this year. Complaints include timeshare sales and resales, retirement communities, and assisted living facilities, and real estate fraud.
If you are a real estate agent, watch out for your clientele and make sure that you are doing your research too. Word-of-mouth can either make you or break you and if your clientele isn’t happy, others will hear about it.
#3) General Fraud
I’m surprised that this didn’t come in at number one this year. Things that fall under this category include work-at-home schemes, grant offers, and bogus sweepstakes.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, these work-at-home business offers might sound good but make sure that you do your research. Check Craigslist. check the Better Business Bureau, ask questions, and Google them for problems. Ask around for legit work-from-home businesses.
This is awfully general so let me clarify a bit. If you’re in the business of offering someone a service, make sure that you are giving your consumers top of the line work, have the right licenses, and perform the tasks that you were assigned (or clearly turn them down).
#5) Retail Sales
The issues the consumers have with retail sales are shoddy products, pushy salesmen, false and deceptive advertising, and problems with coupons.
Running a small business (especially your own) means that you can handle these situations one-on-one with the customer. Make sure that you talk to her, listen to her, and handle her problems accordingly. Your goal is to ease her mind and have her come back to your store.
The issues range from billing and fee disputes to improper and harassing debt collection tactics. I’m going to focus on the latter. If you are a small business that needs to collect a debt, there are certain steps that you should take.
Make sure that you list the due date at the top of every bill that you send. You don’t have to wait 30 days to send a bill. You can send one anytime but I suggest that you bill at about 15 to 20 days. Make sure you keep in contact with them (you have everyone’s phone number, right? The correct answer is yes.). Create a company =-wide understanding of a procedure for dealing with debts.
#7) Home Improvement/Construction
This falls under services too. If you are a small construction company, make sure that you have everything written down and that everyone understands what is required of them before signing papers. Also make sure that your clients are in the loop with purchases and the different choices that they have. These days being a woman in construction isn’t such a unique sight but it doesn’t mean that you still have to put up with people’s guff.
Unfortunately for these business owners, auto sales have topped the list once again. Consumers are talking about misleading advertising, faulty repairs, leasing disputes, bad products, and issues with towing.
As with construction, being a woman in a normally male run business can be difficult. You might take some extra heat from customers (or some inconsiderate looks and scoffs) but you don’t have to take that. In order to really change that though, you need to show them that you are running the best business that you can. So ignore that scoff and sell him the best product, the best way possible, and with a smile on your face.