Customer Complaints and Compliments

Friday will mark my 10 years in the work force.  And all 10 of those years has been spent in customer service.  I have worked at Wal-Mart, Taco Bell, in a call centre, in a bank branch, gas station . . . the list is fairly long.  And so I feel I can certainly speak with some authority about working in front line customer service.

No matter where it’s at, customer complaints are part and parcel.  And as a customer myself, I will be the first to write an email, call, etc to express my dissatisfaction.  I think complaining, when done correctly, is good for not only you, but the company as well.  A few tips, as I see it:

1.  Be polite, yes you’re probably annoyed or pissed off, but there’s no need to be nasty.

2.  Be clear about what you’re complaining about and what you feel could have prevented the complaint.  Be realistic here.

3.  Whoever it is your complaining to is your ally, not your enemy.  I feel this is true for anyone you deal with regarding customer services.  If you get this person on your side, all sorts of possibilities open up.  I know for myself, if a customer is treating me with respect and dignity and being realistic in their request, I will pull out all the stops.  I’ve been known to sacrifice my own time (breaks, lunches, etc) to make sure that I’ve sorted out customer.  And my colleagues are exactly the same.  We love to fight a customer corner.  If a customer, however, has been difficult, demanding, condescending or rude, I will be polite and professional, but I’m most certainly not rolling out a red carpet, and nor do I think I should.

Generally, the general public is all too happy to complain.  It allows us to get up on our soap box and stick it to the man (even if in most cases, ‘the man’ is some underpaid, overworked worker bee, who, as an individual, probably had very little to do with what caused the complaint in the first place).  And to be honest, complaints are good, without them, companies would remain static and wouldn’t have any idea of what is working and what isn’t.  I’ve, at times, had to encourage a customer to log a complaint, as something had indeed gone wrong.  The only way we can track these things is to log them.  So by all means, if something’s not right, do complain, it’s your duty as a customer to do so.  But, at a risk of repeating myself, be nice, be clear, and be realistic.

The second half of this is customer compliments.  These are not as common.  I mentioned earlier that I am quite happy to complain if I’m not happy with something.  I’m also more than happy to write in a compliment when I’ve had better than average service.  I have 2 examples of this recently.

One was with Swarovski, from whom I bought a crystal ring just under a year ago.  A few crystals had fallen out the sides, so  I popped in to the Belfast shop to ask what was required to fix it.  The woman told me just to bring the ring back with my proof of purchase and they’d swap it right out.  I sent Jonathan back in with the ring and the proof of purchase a few days later.  They not only swapped my damaged ring out for a brand new one, they remembered the ring and my going in there, even though I personally wasn’t there.  I was very much impressed, so wrote the head of customer services in the UK for Swarovski to pass on my many thanks for excellent service, which he was more than happy to pass on for me.

Second one was this evening at a humble Burger King.  Our cashier was lovely, met us with a smile, offered me a small fry as I would only get 8 onion rings  with my meal and kept me updated on how my order was coming along.  So I wrote to her manager and filled in my customer survey and name dropped her there again.

Neither one of these cases were earth-shatteringly awesome, which I feel some people might withhold compliments for.  But I was so pleased to have given my business to these two companies, just to have simple, effective service with a smile, that I felt that should be highlighted as well.

The individual/individuals who have done well get recognition they very much deserve (and probably don’t often get) and the companies know what they’re doing right, where their strong points are.  Just like complaints tell us where things are going wrong, compliments, just as importantly, tell us what we’re doing right.

And I know whenI get a compliment, it absolutely makes my day.  I like doing my job well and to a customer’s satisfaction and I’m sure other’s do as well.