The elevator jolted to a stop. I was somewhere between the 29th and 30th floor. Stuck. My thoughts started to spiral. This marbled and mirrored box could be my mausoleum. But my fears soon dissolved as I realized that this little cloud could have a lucrative lining and I smiled knowingly across at my husband.
It turns out the gods really were smiling on me that day, not only was the lift in a salubrious 5-star hotel, but once freed, I was stuck a further two times in that lift and the food and champagne they promised as compensation never turned up. All this amounted to the grounds of a juicy complaint.
A delicately worded email to someone called a Guest Experience Manager to outline my experience and I was promptly given a free night in a luxury suite, a bottle of French champagne and buffet breakfast with all the trimmings. They also fixed some of their procedures and replaced the lifts.
But it has taken me a few years to build my complaining confidence. There’s something about raising issues that deters people. Of course, there are a few out there who have no qualms and even go to the lengths of creating fictitious issues to complain about, but they are for another article.
According to reputation management experts, Reputation Refinery, 96% of us will do nothing this after a poor customer experience, until we leave the premises, when we tell an average of 15 friends how awful it was. This creates a lose-lose situation for you, the business and future customers of that business.
But it can be daunting. We don’t want to be that customer, a Karen as the young people call it. It helps me if I imagine the business was mine, what would I want a customer to do if they were unhappy with the service or product? Of course, I’d want to know. This often bolsters me enough to take the step forward and give voice.
Really, we have a moral obligation to complain. Complaints are a businesses greatest asset. Without complaints how will they know what’s not meeting expectations, or where to improve? They’ll just go merrily along repeating blunder after blunder until they’re stone cold broke and have to get someone like Gordon Ramsay to come and point out their shortcomings, bluntly.
So, it’s in everyone’s interest that we speak up, but mostly it’s in ours, the customers, because when a business wants to fix your issue it usually means free stuff. Complaint is a positive, not a negative. It is an opportunity for all stakeholders and if approached with this attitude you will reap the rewards. I have received many bottles of wine, desserts, champagne, room upgrades, apologies, refunds and freebies as compensation for issues raised.
Now, I’m happy to share the formula for an effective complaint.
1. Complain the right way: Don’t be an asshole. Smile. Be disappointed, not angry. Let them know how much the disappointment has affected you, how you had saved and were looking forward to the product or service. Be clear and specific about the problem, or problems. Point out that you know they’d like the feedback to inform their training and procedures.
2. Complain to the right person: Rarely is this the person serving you. Ask to speak to the manager or get their contact details. An email is a great way to complain as it removes any hint of confrontation and allows you time to properly formulate your words. Many bigger businesses have strict protocols for customer complaints, it is wise to follow them.
3. Know what you need: Have a solution and/or compensation in mind before you launch your complaint. Keep it real though, don’t expect to get the whole meal free to make up for one ordinary course. Expect a free dessert, or liqueur.
4. Follow up if necessary: If you don’t get a satisfactory response, don’t give up. Take it to the next level of management. Usually you’ll get a good response, but if not a gentle reminder about the power of social media will usually provide enough motivation.
If we all expressed our disquiet when deserved, the economy would be in much better shape. When a business can fix its problems and thereby provide customers with a positive consumer experience, the benefits ripple outward. The owners are happier because their product or service is in demand, the bottom line is being met, trade is brisk, and bills are paid. The staff are happier because they have greater job satisfaction and job security. This in turn means that this business is creating more consumers with money in their pockets to spend in other businesses.
If we extend this model across businesses in a town, a city, a State a country, we can see the economy can only grow, jobs become more plentiful and all the economic indicators that are currently close to stagnating: GDP, consumer confidence, employment, wage growth etc. will burst to life again.
Ours is a moral imperative to complain, with grace and dignity of course, but clearly, often and without hesitation.
So, the next time you’re stuck in an elevator with the one you love, don’t let your thoughts turn to the carnal, but to greater good of the economy and people’s happiness.
For more nomadic tales and experiments come see me at Coolfooting where life is a journey not a race.