A recent episode’s piece entitled ‘Speak Up for Service’ was particularly poignant. I’m not sure why, but this particular piece hasn’t been uploaded to the Marketplace website yet. The gist of the piece was that thy set up a hidden camera in a clothing retail outlet and had one of the Marketplace staff take on the role of a store clerk with some poor customer relation skills. The idea was to see just how long Canadian consumers would go before making a complaint.
Customers were met with slow service from the clerk as evidenced by seemingly taking forever to return with the correct size for the female customer. The pseudo clerk compounded the matter by bringing the wrong size, when they eventually did return. Then Marketplace used the old ‘clerk taking a personal phone call’ scenario, while a customer waited patiently.
The Marketplace hosts eventually revealed themselves to the customer and asked some questions as to why they were willing to accept such poor customer service. The customer replied that in this case she was a frequent customer at the shop and had planned on speaking with the Owner, who she knew personally.
Marketplace then brought in an expert to speak about why Canadian consumers will tolerate a lot before they will speak up about a poor customer experience. She provided that many people internalize their frustration and angst, rather than being proactive and speaking to a manager about the service. She also mentioned that many Canadian consumers will ‘vote with their feet’, meaning that they will boycott the store, or perhaps not shop there if the particular employee that provided the poor service was on duty.
A week or so prior to watching this episode my wife and I experienced some questionable customer service when we were paying for our purchases at a local retail outlet. Two young women behind the cash register were having a personal conversation. As we approached and placed our purchases on the counter waiting for them to be run through, they continued with their conversation, seemingly ignoring us. I guess at some point it occurred to them why they were actually standing behind a cash register and rang our order through. However, they never did engage with us and actually kept the personal conversation going while ringing us through.
On a recent outing to our local Costco to get my fresh vegetables, the sign for cucumbers said Product of B.C. Canada. Yet when I looked at the actual cucumbers they were quite clearly labeled Product of California, USA. This may not seem that big of a deal but when vegetables play an integral portion of your diet, buying local versus Mexico for example, it becomes important. I spoke to the harried Costco employee about the erroneous sign and said that she hadn’t had a chance to change it yet. She advised me that they go through so much produce in a day that they are constantly refreshing the shelf. The same produce product could come from different suppliers. She has to stock the shelves with whatever comes in and hadn’t had a chance to change the sign.
So what did I learn in this dialogue? There was a reason that the product was mislabeled. It wasn’t a plot to take advantage of me the consumer. I was still happy to buy a Californian cucumber over a Mexican one. What would I have learned if I didn’t ask the question to the employee? I might have assumed that Costco was using the old ‘bait and switch’ technique.
So how does one complain effectively about poor customer service?
Here are some helpful tips to effectively complain about poor customer service:
Practicing your assertive communication skills in advance can be helpful. You should become comfortable with using “I” vs “You” statements.
A statement such as “I feel disrespected when I shop here and you ignore me while you are taking a personal phone call. I feel that you don’t really want my business. Does your manager support you in ignoring customers?” Okay, everything looked good up to the last sentence. It was very much a passive-aggressive dig at the clerk. It might be better to say something like “I wonder if we can speak to your manager/supervisor about this?”
Worker frustration and being overworked can be a cause for a less than satisfactory customer interaction but there is no excuse for rudeness. Just because the business employee has been rude to you doesn’t mean that you should respond the same way. If you do it will likely have the effect of escalating matters and make resolution difficult.
If you experience a customer/business interaction that you felt was rude in nature, seek out the manager or business owner. Provide them with the details of what you experienced. Let them know that your continuance as a customer may be contingent upon how they resolve the issue. Demanding that the employee be fired is a little draconian but mentioning that some customer relations training might be warranted might be received well.
We have all likely experienced it where a business employee appears to be taking a personal phone call while we are waiting, you need to grab their attention, firmly but politely. They could be actually talking to their supervisor on the phone but the odds are that most of us can differentiate between a personal and a business-related call. The non-verbal body language usually gives it away.
For very slow restaurant service when the establishment doesn’t look the least bit busy “Excuse me, we have been waiting quite a while for our meal. Is there a problem?”
Many business establishments actively seek out customer feedback by way of on-line surveys or via paper at the point of sale. These are great opportunity to express your dissatisfaction with your service. However, you need to be specific as to what your dissatisfaction was related to and who it is directed at. Generalizing and catastrophizing your experience doesn’t help anyone and does a disservice to those that may be giving great customer service … to others.
Don’t be hesitant to recognize exceptional service, it may be even more powerful than complaining about poor service. The secret lays in communicating with the business. They can’t read our minds. The old adage of ‘one dissatisfied customer tell ten who tell ten more…’
What are your thoughts on this subject? Keep the conversation going …
Onwards & Upwards!
Top photo credit Flickr CC Celestine Chua