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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Complaint As A Gift

"Hi! What can we get for you?" asked the lady behind the counter. "I'll have an ------ salad, please." I ordered. "Anything else?" she asked. "No, that will be all. Thank you." I paid for my order and waited...and waited...and waited some more. What could be taking so long? I wondered. I was the only customer at the time. After about five minutes of waiting, I asked the lady about my order. She called out to someone in the kitchen, turned to me and said it will be another couple of minutes. After about ten minutes, I got up. Since their kitchen is visible from the dining area, I looked to see if somebody was fixing my salad. I saw a man who seemed to be washing dishes. He left the water running momentarily to take out the trash. He went inside, quickly ran his hands under the running water (to effectively kill germs, you'd have to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. this man was convinced that his hands were germ-free after a nanosecond). With his bare hand, he proceeded to scrape the bottom of a tupperware. Surely I thought, somebody else has to be making my salad. I looked around and saw no one else. The man transferred the remnants of what looked like noodles (!) into a smaller container. To be thrown out, of course! Or so I thought! The man started walking towards the counter where the orders were made. To my horror, I realized that the man was going to make my salad out of the leftover he had laboriously collected! I caught his attention and he looked at me and smiled to assure me that my salad was coming! "No, no, no!" I said, waving my hands in protest. He spoke and understood little English. He couldn't understand what I was telling him. I immediately called the lady who took my order and told her what I saw. She asked the man to stop what he was doing because I no longer wanted my salad. The lady profusely apologized and gave me a refund. The manager was not available at that time so I was told to call and speak to the manager. I left the restaurant, still hungry but my appetite had dissipated after seeing that! I called when I got home but the manager was still not there. I wanted to tell the manager about my experience so I called again the following the day but still to no avail. I gave up trying to contact them. I also stopped patronizing not only the branch where I had my horrible experience, but ALL the branches of that particular restaurant! Since nobody took the time to hear my complaint, I felt that they didn't want my business, along with the business of my friends and family.

Having worked as a customer service representative at a wireless company, I've attended several workshops that enhanced my skills. One of the classes that I found of most value was entitled "Complaint As A Gift". This class focused on how to deal with complaints. Instead of looking at complaints negatively, we were told to shift our views on the positive side, and take these as gifts! Why gifts? Because gifts are accepted and welcomed. Because an irate customer may complain but when viewed differently, they're actually giving you a CHANCE to change a product or the way you do business. When customers complain, they're actually telling you that they can forget their bad experience if you do something about the problem. Complainants convey the message that they like to do business with your company and one bad experience will not make them take their business to the competition, provided that you listen and take their complaints seriously. When you fix the problem, it sends out a message to your customer that they are valued. Being open to complaints will build customer loyalty. I took this lesson with me after I left the company. After ten years of taking the class, I still believe in this principle and often use it in interviews. When you start looking at complaints or criticism as gifts, you'll acquire a range of knowledge. You'll see these as opportunities for growth.

Ever since going to the Complaint As A Gift workshop, I can't help but notice how customer representatives, customer support, sales associates or anybody who directly serves customers, interact with customers and handle complaints. When I experience bad customer service, I always wonder if these companies give their employees adequate customer service training. When a customer service representative gets impatient and sounds like they don't want to hear another complaint from another customer, I always get the urge to preach about complaint as a gift. I find myself saying to myself that I'll even facilitate the workshop for the company for free, just to get my message across. Maybe, if more companies know about this workshop, or any similar workshops, complaints will be viewed differently, thus retaining more customers. Happy customers lead to a network of new clients. Companies benefit from free marketing and promotion through satisfied customers' word of mouth. Just the same, unhappy customers have the same influence on others ~ a lot of times ten times more.

It doesn't have to be customers seeking service from a business. It can be employees seeking reprieve from unfair treatment or unsuitable work environment, or maybe a request for a chair that will soothe their aching back. What are you doing to make your employees happy? Are you listening? Are you fair to your employees? Are company values in line with your own and your employees? If you're a leader, or a major influence in the company, how great of a leader are you??? DO YOU LISTEN to your employees? Can or should employees trust the company? Do employees feel encouraged to voice their opinions or concerns? Or are they threatened and reprimanded for wanting to be treated justly? Does the company create a safe working environment for its employees? And companies wonder why they lose their best people. Maybe if they practice their listening skills and treat complaints as a chance to correct the mistake, they wouldn't lose so much in court.

Be fair. Be open. LISTEN!

1 comment:

andre' said...

i strongly agree with you and if only companies nowadays would be so open about each and every comments or suggestions being given by employees or customers maybe their sales would even do even better and at the same time help the image of their company and each and everyone would benefit to it.