The art of complaining

An article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye.  It spoke of the importance of customer service.  The cost of acquiring and keeping a customer is high.  In addition, while satisfied customers may not say much about their experiences, unsatisfied customers will often tell others, costing those who fail to satisfy not just good will, but money.

Luxury and mid-price department stores increasingly see customer service as their main attraction and the best way to draw in shoppers from discount stores and online sellers. “We spend a lot of time, money and energy attracting new customers,” says Richard Baker, chief executive of Hudson Bay Co. , owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. “The last thing we want to do is, after all that work, lose a customer over a bad experience.”

A good retailer, will go to great lengths to keep their customers happy.  I have found that the best way to get a company to correct a problem is to raise an issue in a positive way.   People react negatively to being yelled at or abused.  My approach has been to begin with a compliment.  For example, if I have been a satisfied customer, I will begin by saying that I have been happy in the past, even complimenting the retailer for their products or service.  I then explain what the problem is.  I have found that this always produces positive results.

One other tip.  I often aim my complaint in a letter to the president of the company rather than people in the complaint department.  The president may send it to whoever is responsible for fixing the problem, but it’s usually done with instructions to make it right.  That gets the attention of the lower level “flack catchers.”

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