Trust Your Customers

Often, I have a choice to make,

  • Should I trust my customers
    or
  • Should I go thru some checks and balances to ensure validity of a claim?

Some examples of this,

  1. Customer emails me and asks for a duplicate copy of a software / templates she bought because her hard disk crashed and she lost the files.
  2. Customer tells me he has deposited money in to my bank account and provides a transaction number. Now he wants to have the access to the purchased product.
  3. Customer purchases a product by paying full price. Now, she realizes that I offer 25% discount to ex-students of Excel School on this new product. So she asks me for partial refund to match the discount.

During the initial days of my business (in first half of 2009), I used to check for the authenticity of such claim before issuing a refund or providing access details.

But, now I do something radical yet simple. I trust my customers. I take their word and provide the help or offer the discount they asked.

[Related: My start-up values help me make better decisions]

In each of the above cases, I,

1) Tell her that I feel bad for the loss of data and email the software/ templates. (99% of time, I do not check sales records. In the exception cases, I just have to search by customer’s email ID in my gmail to see if she made a purchase in past).

[related: Customer service tips using Gmail for startups]

2) Issue login details or access to the software they bought. Later, once a week, we reconcile all the bank transfers and make sure there are no mistakes. I never had a false claim from our customers.

3) Thank her for the purchase. Issue a partial refund at the earliest.

Why you should trust your customers?

1) Because it is the right thing to do.
2) Because it is the easiest thing to do: If you do not want to trust your customer, you must go great lenghts to check authenticity of a claim. This takes a lot of time and energy from you. Not to mention, the possibility of an argument and bad feelings. The easy thing to do would be to trust them. You might be fooled a few times, but consider the amount of good-will and positive feelings you are building by trusting others.
3) Because it differentiates you from rest: Most of your competition would be *not* trusting their customers. By trusting your customers, you make a difference and it is a good long term investment.
4) Because trust works both ways: Once you trust someone, they also trust you. And this is very important for a successful business. Consider this example,

Ilona, a customer of chandoo.org, accidentally bought 2 units of a product. So she emailed me and asked for a refund. I went to the shopping cart system, tracked the duplicate sale and hit refund button. The refund was processed immediately. But there was a problem.

Since, Ilona was an existing customer, she used a special discount code to claim 25% off on the product. So, instead of full price ($97), she paid $72 only. But when I refunded, the shopping cart system issued a refund for $97.

I noticed this mismatch, so I emailed her,

Sorry I took time to issue a refund. I have processed a refund of $97 to you. (I accidentally refunded more, have a dinner on me. 🙂 )

This should reflect in your credit card statement in next few days.

To which, she replied after a day,

Thank you very much for the refund.

I really would like to send you back the difference. You earned it, you are absolutely marvellous what you are doing, helping others to concur the mystery of the excel, you are a great business man and you work hard for your money. You reply is always quick and very efficient, you don’t let people hanging there in limbo for a long time. So I can’t keep this money and enjoy knowing that you worked for it.

I felt really happy reading the email. Trust works both ways.

Not only customers – Trust employees, prospects and everyone:

You can extend this philosophy to trust everyone in your life. Trust is an amazing life value that removes a lot of negative energy and keeps things simple. While it is not possible to trust everyone, you can practice it whenever possible to make yourself and others feel awesome.

Do you trust your customers?

How do you trust your customers? Do you have any specific examples? Please share using comments. I would love to learn from your experiences.

2 thoughts on “Trust Your Customers”

  1. Dear Chandoo,

    You have raised and emphasised a very valid point i.e. ‘Customer is king’, trust him and win him over. I think this applies in every aspect of life. One should be transparent and honest while dealing with customers. It brings loads of goodwill for blossoming of the business. A small suspicion from our side turns out to be fatal.

    You have presented very interesting stories about your dealings with your clients. The lesson learnt from them should be embibed.

  2. Chandoo,

    Great post.

    Yes, Trust is required in personal and professional life.

    I have had a different story to tell without sounding negative. I had a few experiences of customers lying to me in payment case. They said they have made the payment and when I checked, they had not and they then disappreared.

    My lesson:

    People lie to you because they want to take undue advantage of yours and want it free. And, if you trust them blindly, it’s not their fault, it’s your fault. Ofcourse, such people are less than 2%

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