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Consumers are regularly faced with bad customer service, whether we are trying unsuccessfully to return an item, negotiate a better deal or question an incorrect bill. In fact, a staggering 63% of us feel that poor service is unavoidable. How depressing is that?
I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with feeling fobbed off.
So, is there a way to complain effectively that will guarantee results? It seems there is, just take my friend, for example.
My friend, the complaining master
I have known my friend “D” for years, she is absolutely lovely – and is incredibly successful with her complaints, receiving thousands of pounds in compensation over the last year alone. Her view is that getting the best customer service is all about having the confidence to expect it, and be prepared to speak up about it if not.
“I’d never complain unless it was justified, but I’ve always found that most retailers, restaurants and service providers are only too happy to make amends if things go wrong,” she explained.
“While I refuse to put up with poor service, I’m willing to forgive and forget if the company can rectify the situation,” she told me. “But how can they put it right unless I speak up?”
Which seems a good point, right?
And she isn’t the only one who is voicing her displeasure against shoddy service: figures from the Consumer Action Monitor, published by the Financial Ombudsman Service earlier this year show that consumers made 55 million complaints about products or services in 2016 alone.
But for all that complaining, how often does it accomplish anything? Does the adage of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease’, really run true?
For “D” it certainly has – and the results can soon add up – in the last twelve months, she’s received more than £3,000 in refunds and good-will gestures simply for speaking up when things went wrong.
Crack the hacks for quality customer service – and effective complaints
Don’t suffer in silence. Here are ten life hacks that will guarantee great customer service, every time.
1 Have a goal:
Before you start to complain, decide exactly what it is that you want to achieve. The more specific you are, the more better. Do you want an item replaced? The restaurant bill corrected? After all, how can they retailer right the wrong if you don’t even know what you want?
2 Don’t be put off easily:
Many companies seem to have made it deliberately hard to find the appropriate number to call, often promoting FAQs and email queries to cut down on costly call centres.
What’s more, many service providers force customers to submit comments and complaints to a generic inbox via a “contact us” web page, in a bid to discourage complaints. While others insist you work your way through a telephone option tree before you can talk to a human being.
One quick way to speak to a real person without pressing a thousand different options is to just press 0 or # repeatedly, as this can send a company system into a spin and get you through to an actual human being.
3 Be social:
Forty percent of all complaints are made on social media such as Twitter and Facebook according to the Consumer Action Monitor, and it’s easy to see why: according to the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, the average response times for a complaint on Twitter is just 4 hours 14 minutes.
A retailer that’s been refusing to listen to your calls just may perk up and take notice if you start broadcasting your complaint to hundreds or thousands of people.
4 Write a review:
Writing a negative review on TripAdvisor to get results isn’t just for holidays gone wrong.
My friend “N” once had a such a terrible experience at a local restaurant which led to her walking out without even being seated. When she got home, she wrote a review, and a week or so later was contacted by the manager who mailed me a generous amount of gift certificates as compensation.
She told me that not only did this eventually lead her back to the restaurant, but she had a much better outcome as the restaurant had taken steps to fix the problem she encountered.
5 Don’t accept a “no” from someone who can’t give you a “yes”:
Identify the person who has the power to make the changes you seek; then complain to that person directly.
If complaining to front-line call centre staff gets you nowhere, don’t think the story’s over.
Try a simple ‘Sorry, but in that case, I think I may need to leave,’ then once at disconnections, repeat your complaint – it should pay dividends.
6 Get the timing right:
Always call the organization at the start of the day or around 10am, not at a busy time during lunch when everyone else is calling.
Never phone five minutes before the lines close for the day with a long, complicated issue as it’s unlikely to be resolved.
What’s more, set a deadline for the company to respond – 14 days for a letter is fair. Make a note of the date so you can increase the pressure if it is missed.
7 Get your ducks in a row:
If writing an email or letter to address your concerns, remember to include relevant details such as account numbers. If a company cannot easily find you on their systems they may leave you in limbo.
It’s also worth tooling up on your consumer rights before make any calls If you go in with gusto, saying you know what your rights are, chances are the store will sort your problem in a flash.
8 Stay calm:
This may be harder than you’d think, but can be one of the biggest keys to success. As the old saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”, so try to avoid taking out your frustration on the person who you are asking for help, because no one wants to help the person who is shouting at them.
One way to set the tone is to use a disclaimer such as: “I know this isn’t your fault, but I am really frustrated that this has happened.”
If you rant and rave, the company may be perfectly happy to lose your custom which makes the fight more challenging.
9 Don’t back down:
If you’re a longtime customer who is prepared to leave, feel free to play that card. But don’t let them call your bluff, if you say you are going to leave, you must be prepared to walk away.
10 Take it to the top:
If all else fails then email the CEO whose address you should be able to find online.
Most organizations have a CEO complaints team which ‘dials into the board’. You will get better and faster treatment, but try and use the regular channels first.