The vast majority of the time, I’m the latter. I pick my battles: I’m not going to fight with the cable company’s phone rep. I’m not going to scold a waiter. But recently I had two especially negative experiences that I couldn’t shake off. Though they occurred at different businesses in different cities, they both involved miscommunications that resulted in poor customer service.
You know how these experiences make you feel. You leave a business replaying an interaction over and over in your head, wishing you had asked to speak to a manager on the spot, wishing you had come up with a perfectly worded explanation of how inconvenienced or offended you were. But you didn’t do these things. Why not? Because you knew the moment you started to lose your temper—even if it was warranted—a good employee would have gone into polite-and-apologetic mode. You would have become the crazy customer who needed to calm down, who was rude, who was about to be asked to leave. This gets you nowhere. And now it’s over, but you’re still angry. So what do you do?
You play your trump card. You write a letter.
I wrote letters (well, emails) regarding both of these recent situations, and not only did it make me feel better, but it allowed me to go to a higher authority to thoughtfully explain my problems as an intelligent consumer away from the heat of the moment.
I’m comfortable writing letters, but I’m less comfortable with my ultimate motives behind doing so. Really, what did I want out of the exchange? An apology? Not really. To make sure the next customer gets better service? Nah, that’s not it, either.
I wanted something free.
It feels a little slimy to admit it, even though I didn’t explicitly ask for anything. From the businesses’ perspective, it’s probably a better marketing decision—and less of a risk—to toss off a gift card or coupon than to have an angry customer holding a grudge (especially if she was formerly a regular, satisfied customer). Getting something feels like validation that you, as the customer, were right.
Have you written a letter of complaint? What were your motives? If you’re a business owner, do you really want to hear about customers’ bad experiences, or would you rather they just keep their mouths shut and stop fishing for freebies? And what do you make of the fact that 70 percent of social media complaints are ignored?