Complaining about service (part 1)

Although most of us gripe about service headaches to family and friends we seldom—studies show it’s as few as one out of four—complain to the company that dropped the ball. And many consumers who do complain to businesses do so ineffectively.

A lot of consumers remain silent because it seems like too much trouble to complain or they want to avoid a confrontation. Others don’t complain because they think it won’t help—the warranty expired a week ago so the store won’t do anything. But generally, telling a company—especially a reputable company—that things didn’t go well usually produces good results. The trick is to complain competently, and to diligently follow up.

I have always asked to speak to the company’s owner or manager, stating  the facts as I saw them and what the company could do make amends. One should be polite and reasonable. No one responds well to hostility.  (When I ran a company I made it a rule that all complaints had to come over my desk, and I dealt with them personally.  This is not a common habit, but it is very effective in gaining  good will).

If your phone call fails to yield results, put it in writing. Attach to your email, or enclose with your letter, copies of relevant documents such as contracts, invoices, receipts, and previous correspondence.

Another option is to post your complaint—and your desired resolution—on Facebook or Twitter and tag the company. This forces the company to decide whether it wants to gain good or bad publicity from your dispute. While it’s not too risky to ignore one customer’s complaint, many companies don’t ignore complaints that have been broadcast to hundreds of other potential customers. Many companies, particularly national ones, have staff who monitor social media websites to resolve complaints quickly and show that the company is responsive to its customers.

Tomorrow I will discuss what to do if the problem escalates.

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