How to Get the Service You Deserve?
By John Tschohl
Thursday, 8th September 2005
"No one likes a complainer." How many times have you heard that? It probably started when you were a toddler and complained to your mother about the food she wanted you to eat, evolved through your teen years as you complained about having to do homework, and continues today as you try valiantly not to complain about your workload.

Well, folks, I'm here to tell you that there are indeed some people who like complainers! Those are people who head companies that want to provide the best possible customer service, who want to give the customer what he wants at a price point that is competitive and wants to do so in a timely manner. Service leaders value complaints, viewing them as scorecards that tell them how the company is doing in meeting the needs and wants of its customers.

So, I say to you, complain. Let businesses know when they disappoint you. Tell them what they're doing wrong and how they can do it right. It might not be easy, at least at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can be a successful complainer. In the process, you not only will be doing a service to the businesses you patronize, but you will get the type of service you deserve.

Look at it this way: You owe it to the company to complain when you have a problem with one of its products, services, or employees. And the company owes it to you to solve that problem to your satisfaction. Too many consumers have a defeatist attitude or they simply fear confrontation. Rather than complain about a problem, they merely take their business elsewhere. That doesn't do them any good—and it certainly doesn't do the company any good.

How to set you on the course of effective complaining, I offer the following tips:

Be prepared. Keep all sales receipts, warrantees, canceled checks, product tags, repair orders and other information for any product or service you purchase.

Be diplomatic. If you approach a company employee and immediately begin yelling, name calling—"You are so dumb, I can't believe it"—you immediately put that person on the defensive. You also greatly decrease your chances of having that employee's cooperation in helping to solve your problem.

Be persistent. If that employee is unable—or unwilling—to help you, move your complaint on up the corporate ladder. Ask to talk with the manager. If you still are not satisfied, contact the owner or president. I recently purchased a $1,000 software package that I was unable to download. When I contacted the company, it refused to refund my money. Many e-mails, a letter to the company president and 30 days later, it finally refunded my money.

Be clear. State how you feel you were wronged—the product didn't work properly, or the service wasn't delivered when promised. Then state what you want the company to do to rectify the situation. That might be replacing the faulty product, refunding your money, or reducing the charge for the late delivery.

Set a time limit. Give the company a deadline for righting the wrong. Ten working days is a good rule of thumb.

Document everything. Keep copies of all of your correspondence. If you write to the company president, keep a copy. It you talk to an employee, either in person on by phone, get that employee's name, write it down. Include the date and time of the conversation, as well as a summary of what was said.

When you have a problem with a company, stand up, be proud—and complain! By doing so you are giving the offending company a chance to make things right and to keep you as a customer. It's time you get the service you deserve.

If you would like a copy of my book, The Customer is Boss, for $10 plus shipping—a savings of $9.95 off the retail price—send an e-mail to quality@servicequality.com by December 31 and enter the code CIB.

John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service, including The Customer is Boss, e-Service, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, and Ca$hing In: Make More Money, Get a Promotion, Love Your Job. John also has developed more than 26 customer service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout.

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