Many Happy Returns: ASQ Offers Tips for Better Service this Holiday

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Late deliveries and long waits top list of customer service complaints, according to a new ASQ survey.

customers, quality, service, holidays, returns, gifts

ASQ Survey shares top customer complaints and tips for getting better service.

"Returning an item is like breaking up when you're dating. Do it in a public place and don't make the service rep defensive." John Goodman

The stockings are hung on the chimney with care in hopes that holiday deliveries will soon be there. Santa will be on time, but retailers usually don’t fare as well with late deliveries topping the list of customer service complaints, according to a new survey by ASQ, the leading authority on quality in all fields, organizations and industries.

The survey, conducted online during World Quality Month, polled more than 400 quality and customer service experts worldwide. Results indicated little disparity from country to country.

The following are top customer complaints, according to the survey:

  • 55 percent of respondents say timeliness in service delivery is the most often heard complaint
  • 37 percent say long waits, such as store lines and waiting for shipped products, is the biggest complaint
  • 26 percent say errors or inaccuracies in billing and payments are the major issue.
  • 25 percent say lack of clear communications is the most often heard complaint.

“Late deliveries, longer than usual waits and shipping charges are common reasons for customer dissatisfaction during the holidays but as many as three-quarters of Americans won’t like the gifts they receive so returns will also be prevalent,” said John Goodman, ASQ member, customer service expert and vice chairman, Customer Care Measurement and Consulting.

While it’s in the best interests of retailers to have good return policies, Goodman recommends that customers take these steps to help ensure a positive sales experience:

  • Save all receipts and if they are lost, bring credit card statements to show the purchase record.
  • Take three deep breaths. When someone is anxious or upset, they don't think clearly and therefore often don’t present their case logically.
  • State exactly what is wanted from the rep otherwise they might go off in the wrong direction in developing a response.
  • If the answer is “no,” ask for a description of the policy underlying the issue and find out who has the authority to override it.

“Returning an item is like breaking up when dating. Do it in a public place and don’t make the service rep defensive,’” Goodman said. “Don’t raise suspicion and be honest up front. Tell the store rep that the problem is not their fault — this reduces their defensiveness.” Goodman adds that the simplest and most important thing to do is to recognize good quality service.

About ASQ
ASQ is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better. With millions of individual and organizational members of the community in 150 countries, ASQ has the reputation and reach to bring together the diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s corporations, organizations and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges. ASQ is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with national service centers in China, India, Mexico and a regional service center in the United Arab Emirates. Learn more about ASQ’s members, mission, technologies and training at

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Christel Henke
American Society for Quality
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Christel Henke
since: 05/2008
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