Service quality and respect for consumer rights are essential. Awareness and demand levels have increased.
Having worked for over 20 years in the consumer protection area, Maria Inês Dolci is a leading Brazilian specialist on the subject. In addition to coordinating Proteste – Latin America’s largest consumer protection entity – she writes bimonthly articles in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper and maintains a blog on the subject.
IS THE CONSUMER MORE AWARE AND DEMANDING? Today the demand level is very high. The consumer knows his rights better and is more attentive. He notices when he’s being disrespected and knows where to complain. Social networks have become another weapon so he can report the problems he’s facing. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? Awareness has been increasing since the Consumer Protection Code was approved in 1990. Along with the existence of a law to protect the consumer, in these last 25 years, the population’s education level has increased and it has become easier to search for information about companies and products on the internet. All of this has increased the consumer’s power. HOW SHOULD COMPANIES ACT GIVEN THIS NEW REALITY? Many companies are still unprepared, needing to adapt their behavior and train their teams. It’s necessary to have quality service, giving the customer all information about the product or service. Meeting the deadlines and established conditions are also essential. For services, they must have technical knowledge and everything must be well done. The most critical aspect is after-sales service. We received many complaints from technical assistance that didn’t resolve problems raised by customers. It’s necessary to know how to deal properly with a consumer who returns with a complaint or question. This involves providing reliable information, without runarounds, and finding a solution to his problem. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE CUSTOMER’S COMPLAINTS ARE UNFAIR? The situation should be clearly explained to the customer and, wherever possible, a solution proposed. It’s best to not get into a conflict and don’t leave the customer dissatisfied. In general, it’s possible to reverse the situation with good service and by giving complete and reliable information. WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF NOT ATTENDING THE CONSUMER WELL? The first risk is to lose the customer forever. Someone who is dissatisfied hardly ever returns to purchase or use the services of a company that attended them poorly. This dissatisfaction leads to the second risk: the repercussion of poor service. People tell their acquaintances what happened which undermines the image of the company or the professional. Many complaints end up on social networks, further magnifying the negative repercussions. Besides this, there are legal risks. Some cases wind up in court and consumer protection agencies, which can generate punishments such as fines. DOES THIS NEW CONSUMER BEHAVIOR OPEN UP OPPORTUNITIES? The consumer who feels valued and well attended usually becomes loyal and, more than this, influences others to become customers of the same company. This is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the market and to grow, which needs to be considered. Those who offer quality assistance and services come out ahead of competitors. This goes for all kinds of companies, large or small.