There’s not a person in the world who hasn’t experienced poor customer service at one time or another. Cranky checkout clerks, advertised specials sold out before the ad hits the pavement, no communication from service providers and long hold times for phone customer service are just a few of the things that frustrate consumers. A frustrated consumer is also an ex-customer in the making. Businesses need to step up their training so you have fewer frustrating experiences when spending your money, but there are also things you can do to make sure you’re being heard.
When frustrated, people tend to go back to their basic instinct in dealing with confrontation; some cry, others yell, still others just walk away and do nothing. None of those are good strategies for resolving your own complaints. Remember that anyone in business for any length of time knows there are going to be problems from time to time; no one is perfect. And no one goes into work with the intention of screwing up. Managers want to run good businesses; those who don’t care aren’t managers for long..
It’s not the problems but how they are handled that tells you the character of a business. If they push you off and give you the runaround, you know that company has bigger problems than the one you’re experiencing. If they pay attention and do what they can to resolve the situation, that says more about a company than all the advertising in the world.
When dealing with an incident of poor customer service, the best strategy is to SNAP at them:
- Be Specific. When voicing your complaint, don’t throw generalities onto the dog pile. Avoid statements like, “You ALWAYS …” or “Everyone working here is just stupid!” Before speaking with a manager or a supervisor if it’s a phone situation, outline exactly what the problem is. Include the names of those you’ve dealt with, what you’ve done already to resolve the situation and what you’d like to see as a solution to the problem. If the problem is a specific employee, having a name will help the manager identify areas where the employee can be better trained and, if training has already been completed, perhaps documenting a case for dismissal.
- Use your Name. Anonymous complaints do no good, other than letting you release some of your frustration. Most companies ignore anonymous complaints because they do no good in fixing a situation that could easily be resolved. Whether you’re speaking with a manager or supervisor, giving them your name helps them identify the employee and get back to you with the resolution.
- Mind your Attitude. Check your attitude before you speak with a manager. Frustrated consumers come in many forms, ranging from those who are visibly angry to those who simply walk out of the store and never come back, taking their friends’ business with them. The best way to get your complaint heard and acknowledged is to remain calm, cool and collected. Set out your complaint logically, specifically and as completely as possible, then leave it in the hands of the manager. If the problem doesn’t get resolved or you continue to get the runaround, take next steps by going over the manager’s head or, in the case of a service, file a complaint with Better Business Bureau and local regulatory agencies. A well-constructed letter to the health department about a restaurant’s cleanliness or to the BBB about how a business resolves problems might not solve your individual problem, but the business will be on notice that you’re going to get acknowledged one way or another.
- Start the process in Private. It might feel good to yell and scream at some poor clerk in a store who made a mistake, but it really doesn’t resolve the bigger problem. Remember that employee attitudes reflect management’s attitude toward customers like a mirror. Poor customer service in a business you’ve used before without problem can be a sign of a new or unresolved problems. Good managers want to hear when there are problems directly from you instead of reading about it online or hearing about it from the camera crew that shows up at their door.
So the byword for customer complaints is SNAP: Specific, Name, Attitude and Private. If you exhaust all your solutions with the company or business itself, there are next steps to get the situation resolved.
Next time: Acknowledging good customer service pays big dividends