The Customer’s Bill of Rights

The Customer’s Bill of Rights

02 July 2009


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–>Peter S. Finkelstein, author of “The Sales Executive’s Companion” created a punchy, relevant “Customer Bill of Rights”. Charles Ash shares his views on dismal customer service which is sadly, increasingly becoming the norm.


 Something is deeply amiss in the customer service landscape in South Africa and YOU, Mr and Mrs Consumer, are just as much to blame as the companies meting out the shoddy service. Sometimes, I wish South African consumers were more vocal, assertive and possibly even as litigous as their US counterparts who seem to have little hesitation when it comes to exercising their rights and suing the pants off a company for non-delivery or shoddy service. The spinoff of this confrontational approach to customer service by consumers is that companies are forced to be “on their toes” and provide excellent customer service lest the customer move to the competition or worse, they face legal ramifications for not keeping their eye on the ball.

Could the seemingly collaborative and monopolistic nature of South Africa’s corporate environment be responsible for the “devil may care” attitude that permeates customer service departments in this country? While not all companies are guilty of providing poor customer service, one often feels trapped into dealing with a particular company because of the distinct lack of real competition in the various industries and sectors in South Africa. From business directory listings to broadband, pay television to food chains, the South African consumer always seems to come up short when up against what appears to be a corporate cabal of market string-pullers. Sadly, most sectors in South Africa are typified by a closed group of dominant players who exhibit very little variation in product offering and pricing to differentiate them from each other, leaving the customer stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In his book “The Sales Executive’s Companion”, Peter S. Finkelstein makes a profound statement in his succinct piece “The Customer’s Bill of Rights” which summarises what a customer should expect from all companies which they deal with.

The Customer’s Bill of Rights

As my customer…

  • You are entitled to be treated as an individual, feeling human-being, with friendliness, honesty and respect
  • You are entitled to full value for your money. When you buy from me you should feel assured that it was a good purchase and that it is exactly as I represented it to be
  • You are entitled to a complete and unconditional guarantee of satisfaction
  • You are entitled to fast delivery. But in the event of a delay, you are entitled to immediate notification, along with an honest estimate of expected delivery time and date
  • You are entitled to speedy, courteous, knowledgeable answers to all of your inquiries
  • You are entitled to all the help I and my company can give in finding exactly what you need
  • You are entitled to expect the highest visibility and easy access to my company’s executives. No reasonable request should be denied because executive are “too busy”
  • You are entitled to deal and correspond with or talk to a person, rather than voicemail
  • You are entitled to be treated exactly as I want to be treated when I am someone else’s customer

I think the Customer Bill of Rights should be posted on the customer service department walls of every company, it should even be taught in schools so that we instil a culture of service excellence from an early age. Heck, they should setup an International Court at the Hague for prosecuting some of the serial corporate offenders who continuously violate their customers and take them for granted.

Will it ever be possible to benchmark and have a consistent, universal set of rules governing customer service interactions, with clear recourse for the customer and material consequences for corporate transgressors? It seems as if companies have the upper hand and besides fuming on forums and writing letters to the media, consumers don’t have much power in this lopsided battle.

This compliments of Charles Ash of Marketing Web


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