Complaint or Conversation?

Do you use the term ‘complaint’ when you make contact with a company after receiving a product or service that you find unsatisfactory? For many of us, as customers, we don’t define this as a complaint – we just see it as part of the service we receive from a company. We want to have a conversation to share feedback, and we expect the person we speak with to represent the brand, take ownership of the situation and resolve it for us.

So, why are so many companies driving customers through a complaint process and creating dedicated teams to handle customers who just want a service conversation?

The anatomy of a complaint

Data suggests that, nine times out of ten, we will continue doing business with a company even after they mess up – but only if they completely fix the incident on the first try.

Great! But do companies have the conversational ability to speak to you on your own terms in order to make it right first time? Or are they still insisting on imposing their rules on how you and your issue (or complaint) is categorised and responded to?

What is a complaint, anyway? Is it when a company has to defend themselves after being told by you that they have done something bad? No. Is it when you have a grievance and you tell them you are unhappy? No. Is it when you, as a rational human being, wake up one day and decide to call them and be rude to them? No.

A complaint is just a conversation. One between you and the company. An opportunity for them to learn about you and what makes you tick, and how they can be an even better business. An opportunity to make good on all those promises of fantastic service.

Are they prepared to have a conversation? Or are they just trying to buy off your customer rights with money instead of understanding?

Are they the ones telling you that you are making a complaint? Or are they listening to what service you need from your relationship right now?

If they make the right moves, it can remain a simple request for service: if they really listen, talk to you in the right way at the right time, and don’t tell you that you are making a complaint. This potential volcano of fury can be made happy and trusting with a true resolution that didn’t involve either of you invoking the word ‘complaint’.

The art of conversation

So how can companies do this? Simply by giving their people the tools to master the art of conversation.

We believe this art comes from owning the situation. Being less fearful of differing conversational approaches. Having permission to dig a little deeper into the real, human moment-to-moment service needs, instead of being wary of ‘complaints’ as they are traditionally understood.

As a customer, we just want you to talk to us. Have a relationship. Support us. Even if it is only once every five years when we need you to be truly, breathtakingly brilliant.

Nigel Webb

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