Leslie Flowers' great post on Taking it To The Source led me to post this.
You have two options when you receive sub par service or defective merchandise. You can go to management to make it right, or say nothing and pay anyway.
I got tired of saying nothing and paying anyway. It didn't resolve things to satisfaction, it left me irritated all the time, and it didn't exactly help that gaping wound called my pocketbook.
We're being conditioned these days to just shut up and take it. Give us your money, we'll basically forget that you keep us employed, and we'll move on to the next sucker. Why should we care if you are unhappy? We already have your money.
I have a close friend who sees this sort of thing in black and white. When she receives something she ordered that is in a nasty state of disarray--basically, the opposite of what she was promised when she was induced by the marketing to order it--I encourage her to send it back or talk to management. She thinks that it isn't worth making a stir over $5 here and there, and sometimes, even over $10. Yet, she hates that this money is just trickling away for nothing.
I tell her time and again that approaching management to right something is her, well, right! Whether she pays $20 for something that's overcooked, or $4 by something being mislabeled. By the way, that 'friend' is me.
Should we actually "complain?"
Perhaps it starts with the very word we use to describe this step: complaint. None of us wants to look high-maintenance, have our food spit in, ruin the night for anyone else, or fuss over such and such for $4.50.
I propose we change the name of this step to feedback. Feedback is just that. It can be positive or negative, and it can be given positively or negatively. Why not try some negative feedback in a positive manner?
I remember an experience where my family went out for our weekly buffalo wing binge with a side of beer and basketball. Normally, these wings are tops. But this day, the wings were beyond terrible. They were tiny, overcooked, no meat on the bones. You could use them for weapons, but you weren't getting any feelings of fullness from them. I turned to my husband and said, "I don't know if they decided to buy from a different vendor, but I'm not paying $20 for dried skin."
Now, before that day I would have said nothing, more than likely, or forced my husband to do the dirty work. See what I did there? "Dirty work." It shouldn't be dirty work!
But on this day, I decided to see it as feedback.
And as a fellow business owner, I at that momemt didn't feel like a customer--I felt like an ally to this business, and I felt it was my duty to point some things out in a way that management could fix it before it blew up in their face with a family of four later. I now felt obligated, guilty even, for NOT saying something. That's not to sound holier than thou--it's to sound responsible for helping keep local business IN business.
I asked our waiter to get the manager and send him over to our table. When he arrived:
--I greeted him with a sincere smile and introduced myself.
--I explained that we were regulars and we came in regularly because of the wings.
--I asked if they had decided to buy wings elsewhere, because I noticed a significant difference.
He explained that they ran out of wings the day before due to a sports tournament; it was unexpected, and they were forced to buy wings from the store. He said he knew they were different. In response, I:
--congratulated him on, in some aspects, a good problem to have (massive orders)
--agreed wholeheartedly with him that the wings were not enjoyable, pointing out specifics without being critical
--expressed my desire to continue coming back, but only if this wasn't going to be a regular thing
all with a smile, but with sincerity
In return, he (as he should have) offered to send out more wings on the house. I would have rather not paid for the wings we had, as there wasn't anything on the bones. I chose in this case, however, to add another order, hoping a larger quantity would help make us feel like we had finally had a full meal. It worked out alright, and I moved on. After all, I knew it wasn't intentional, management did immediately offer to bring more out at no charge.
(Something I did keep to myself was the thought that if everyone from waitstaff to management saw those wings and had the same opinion, that they should not have allowed anyone to order them. Offering sub par merchandise is worse than simply saying you are out, in my book. However, Wings is part of their business name, so they may have felt obligated. I didn't push it. Hakuna matata.)
Now, could I have gotten my lunch comped by being a jerk, or yelling, or insulting the manager or establishment? Sure. But things would never have been the same. Now, if things are bad enough, once or multiple times, that I don't even want to patronize the business anymore, I will now let them know that, too. I'll let them know I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore--but professionally, sternly, calmly, like an adult. I can simply take my wallet to their competitor, sure--but now, I can leave feedback on my way out.
I also plan to use--and ask for--those feedback comment cards. Both to leave negative feedback, and good feedback (say, when's the last time we told a manager something good about the staff, service, or food? Efficiency, helpfulness, quality?).
The point I'm making is: Perhaps if we change the way we look at resolving problems with customer service or products, we'll change how we approach it, and how we resolve those problems will change as well.
What say you?
Michelle Gower provides kicka** results for kicka** people at Gower Power Consulting, a WordPress training, mentoring, and assistance authority, in Raleigh, N.C. for the solopreneur, WordPress provider, and small business owner. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 919-228-8450, and of course, her wit can be enjoyed in full glory at http://www.facebook.com/gowerpowernc. She is about to teach How to Build a WordPress Website course at Wake Tech Community College to small business owners just like you starting February 13. Register now.