Crowned the ‘Queen Of Complaints’, Ingrid Stone writes to companies when she’s dissatisfied with a poor service. Here’s Ingrid on why it isn’t the customers who complain that companies should worry about…
Apparently we’re becoming more confident at doing it – complaining. But there are still too many of us who would rather battle our way through a steak that tastes like an old boot than ‘make a scene’.
But for whose benefit? It certainly doesn’t serve ours, and neither does it for – and this might surprise you – the business providing you with their product or service.
Avoiding bad publicity
It’s a case of Better The Consumer Devil You Know. At least if you point out the problem with the disastrous holiday you’d saved up for, your below-par meal, or those new leggings with the unintentional dropped crotch, the relevant company immediately knows something isn’t right. They then have the opportunity to lure you back by offering some sort of compensation, or by advising you that they’ll take action to improve or solve the issue.
If however, you say nothing, this schtum-dom might lead you to tell your friends – or worse, tweet and YouTube your bad experience. That incident could even go viral. Ironically, the company has more chance of keeping you as a customer if you do complain – they are given the chance to make things better and prevent you from telling the world about what went wrong.
Grateful for complaints
And if there’s a genuine problem, it seems that businesses want to know.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a complaint letter to the CEO of a high street store. I had purchased a rubberised light-up monster toy for my little girl that all the babies went mad for at her playgroup. When I got this creature home, I discovered a sharp, broken shard of either glass or plastic within its rubber casing – like a piece of shattered light bulb, which could have hurt a child. So I wrote to the CEO and he replied personally, with a handwritten postscript, telling me how grateful he was that I had got in touch and that the matter would be dealt with “as a matter of significant urgency”.
As consumers in noughty-something AD, we have more power than ever to stand up for our rights and spread the word. And companies know it. They check out Twitter to see what people are saying about them, listen to opinion polls – even Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is taking notes. No one can afford to lose customers anymore.
So it’s not the customers who complain that companies should worry about, it’s the ones who don’t.
This is a guest post by Ingrid Stone, author of the book and blog Letters of a Dissatisfied Woman. All opinions expressed here are her own, not those of Which?.