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Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Recently I bought a pair of trainers, online. Not the cheapest at £80 but I know that as trainers go, they were by no means the most expensive either! In this connected world we live in, I jogged through the buying process with relative ease, paid with my bank card and the order was placed. When the goods arrived, I thought for a moment I had received someone else’s consignment. The design and colours were what I expected, but they were obviously too small for my size 11 feet. Yet, clearly displayed in the moulded sole were the words “Men Size 11”.

I studied them further. They were cheaply made with poor quality materials. So, they didn’t fit and would never last. Immediately, and with growing disappointment I opened the web page from the company I had ordered from, and this is where it pays to spend a while longer to read the small print before parting with your hard-earned cash. I had unwittingly purchased direct from the manufacturer, who was based in Shenzhen, China’s third largest manufacturing base. My heart sank. What would their return’s policy be? Would I be able to communicate the problem by email in a language we both understand? How long would this all take?

Don’t be silly! Of course, I didn’t think for one second that they would have any form of customer complaints policy. And after a great deal of time wasting on Google, all was confirmed - DO NOT TOUCH THESE PEOPLE WITH A BARGE POLE. What do they say about a fool and his money. Usually I am smart/cautious – but on this occasion they got me.

So how do I feel about that? Well £80 worse off. Annoyed, angry that they have my money, and not only do I not have what they advertised, I have discovered there’s nothing I can do about it.

BUT …. What if this hadn’t been the case? What if they had a page on their website headed Customer Care. What if the message on that page said something like this: “We put a great deal of time and effort into producing what we hope you will agree is a quality product. We want you to enjoy wearing our trainers. However, if for any reason you are not satisfied, please email us at the following address and we will respond within 48 hours. If you wish to receive a refund, this will be agreed, without quibble.

There are many differences between a pair of trainers and a house. Equally there are so many similarities between how a complaint about either should be handled. It is safe to say that great homeowner after care is a no-brainer. It is what your warranty provider expects, and it is also what the New Homes Quality Code expects. It is what your customer expects, but above all, isn’t it what you feel compelled to provide, if only to prevent a disgruntled occupant spending an hour on the internet ruining your company’s reputation? Frankly, I could spend endless hours telling the world about my shockingly bad experience with a pair of Chinese trainers but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t make a jot of difference to anyone. A home, however, is the single most important acquisition a consumer is ever likely to make in their life. Mostly they don’t expect it to be perfect; all they do expect is that when something does go wrong, they have a procedure to follow and that someone will listen to them and then will put it right.

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