Friday, December 22, 2006

How to make a complaint.

In a convoluted logic kind of way I thought I would just post this as a kind of follow on to hazardous to my health. It would seem that Britons are becoming more comfortable with complaining. The old "Stiff upper lip" seems to be softening and we are now more willing to kick up a fuss if things dont go to our liking. About bloody time! The only problem is that most of you havent got the slightest clue about how to actually complain. So I though I would post a little How to to make it a bit easier for you.

There is a school of thought that says complaints are bad news. It signals trouble - either a troublesome customer who is going to be hard work or a spongeing freeloader who makes up spurious complaints to get free stuff. Alas in some cases both these scenarios are woefully true. But Ive always taken the viewpoint that a complaint is a cry for help. The customer is trying to tell you that somewhere down the line something is wrong, something is preventing them from having the marvelous night out they wanted. They are giving you the opportunity to resolve the issue and allow them the happiness they are expecting. So complaints should be seen as such, and wherever possible you should be making every human effort to resolve their issue and allow them their happiness. As the old proverb states " a stitch in time, saves nine" meaning that the sooner you nip any problems in the bud, the more likely you are to prevent any escalation. Which brings me on to my first lesson.

There is a right and a wrong time to make a complaint. The right time is as soon as the problem becomes apparent. This allows us the opportunity to attempt to resolve it. All being well we will rectify any problem and life will continue happily along. If you've been inconvenienced we will usually make an appropriate reconcilliatory gesture - a complementary glass of wine or something for example. The incorrect time is three weeks later. What the hell do you honestly expect us to do after three weeks. It is this kind of complaint that gets us thinking you are a freeloader. People who do this usually always use the phrase - "I didnt want to make a fuss". What?!!! If you didnt want to make a fuss, what on earth do you think writing to the managing director is going to do. Do you think he invites us all up to his office for a nice cup of tea to discuss your letter in a civilised manner?! Get real, we get a phone call at some ungodly hour of the morning tersely summoning us into his office in record time for the bollocking of a lifetime. Think Gordon Ramsay's scarey? He's a pussycat compared to the MD flying off on one. Do us all a favour and state your issue at the time it happens. Then we can solve it for you and save us all some serious grief. Which brings me on to my second lesson.

What is it you are actually complaining about? Be specific -again the more specific you are, the more likely we are to be able to resolve your problem. Meal not cooked to your satisfaction - fine, exactly how do you want it. Your rooms terrible and you had a crap nites sleep - oh Im sorry, what was wrong with it exactly - too hot, too cold, bed to soft/hard, not enough pillows etc etc etc. And while we are talking about focus, Ive often found that when people start "stockpiling" complaints, there is always one fundamental problem that they want resolved. Everything else is just filler to make them feel more agrieved. Tell us what that fundamental problem is and we'll try to resolve it. Dont go exagerrating everything out of all proportion, magnifying every small issue into the worlds biggest crisis. It makes you look like the bad guy. Be clear about the problem and this leads onto lesson three

Have an aim in mind.
Ok so you've aired your grievance and made your complaint, what exactly do you want out of it. Let us know what your win scenario is. Do you want your steak medium well instead, do you want a different main course, what do you want to achieve from the complaint. By telling us this, you allow us the final piece of information to resolve your issue. Now we know what we are aiming to achieve. It makes it so much easier to resolve issues if we know our end-game. But for gods sake be realistic. There are many things that are within our realm to resolve, there are some things that need higher powers. If I cant solve a problem because I lack the authority to make a certain decision I will tell you, and then I will get someone who has the authority. Obviously this will take more time. So be patient. We will keep you informed of what is happening as we can. Any compensatory measures will be proportional to the issue. Dont expect your entire stay "comped" because your steak was a touch overdone. But it isnt unreasonable to expect a glass of wine while the kitchen re-prepares your meal, unless you ordered it that way, in which case take some responsability, know what you are ordering before you order it.

Other tips to remember - losing your temper solves nothing. It gets our backs up and the situation escalates beyond resolve. Shouting at us isnt going to make us want to resolve your issue. Explaining the problem in a clear calm voice is more likely to get it resolved quicker than calling us arseholes and screaming at us.
Manners go a long way.
Be gracious and accept our apologies. We dont want to cause problems, we want people to enjoy their meals and return.

Follow these guidelines and you might make your life a lot easier, sure as hell it might make mine too!!

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