Don’t be British – Complain!

We British are very good at not complaining about something, we will sit there and tolerate bad service and will not say anything for fear of causing a scene. I always try to voice dissatisfaction when out in a restaurant, if the food is cold or something isn’t right, but a little bit of me always seems to hesitate when I do complain. Over the last couple of weeks I have had far too many experiences of bad customer service and have seriously broken the shackles of Britishness, complained and won! Social Media and the internet makes it so much easier for people to complain and moan about service, sometimes this is a bad thing but on other occasions it can be a liberating tool and useful for businesses.

I hate bad customer service, having worked in a number of customer facing roles I know it can be difficult sometimes, that you do get terrible customers and there are always going to people who you cannot please, but you are there to do a job so you have to grin and bear it. I have been a waitress, worked behind a deli counter in a supermarket and worked in travel, all of which have offered me a wide range of customer experiences, mostly good but there have been the bad. The most rewarding is when you get a difficult customer and you turn it around and they leave happy, this always made me smile and go home thinking I did something good today!

However, I am finding more and more you go into places, be it restaurants, bars or supermarkets and you come face to face with rude and unhelpful staff. Its gotten to the point where I am now surprised when I speak to a friendly and helpful member of staff. Why, oh Why have we allowed this to happen?! Are companies no longer striving for customer service because they think all people want are the low prices so as long as they beat the competitor on that you do not mind about a rude shop assistant?

I do agree that there are a group of people out there who complain for the sake of complaining, and I have come across them on more than one occasion in past jobs, and they are usually complaining about something to see what they can get back in return. This does dilute the effect that a genuine complaint about a product or service can have and can make customer service employees disregard a complaint. This is something that needs to be fixed. The average person when they have bad service should be able to complain and not worry about being tarnished with a stigma. When I told a friend that I complained about service in a restaurant and they invited me back for a complimentary meal to experience what service should be like, they instantly said ‘ they will spit in your food!’ Why would you say this, why would a waiter do that? I have been a waitress and it never once crossed my mind! But it is this stigma that complaints get. Yes, having had to reply to complaints in the past when working in travel you do sit there and roll your eyes at some of them, thinking surely this person has better things to do than complain about the food on the plane, or the fact there wasnt a tea maker in their hotel room ( you are trekking in Nepal of course there is no kettle in your room!) but when you get a genuine complaint then it can be a very useful tool. It could highlight a problem that you didn’t know was there, a small fix could improve service for future customers and boost an experience. Of course yes you do have to sift through a lot of rubbish to get to the genuine complaints and feedback but they can be of use to a business – but only if they genuinely want to offer good service to their clients!

For most businesses you cannot physically respond to every email or letter you get with feed back, but companies should be responding to genuine complaints. However with the rise in popularity of Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook, a new way to give feedback and for companies to respond has opened up. I am wary of putting feedback on Twitter, especially the more negative. If I like somewhere, and I am in that sort of mood then I will tweet it, but until last week had not used it as a tool for complaint.

A few friends use twitter as a way to release their angst against companies, and fair enough if a company is using twitter as a back up customer service avenue then use it. My first tweet of angst came after a shockingly bad experience at a Mexican restaurant( I wont name names), slow service, dishes forgotten, the wrong dishes bought to the table… just a bad night out! So feeling less than pleased that my hard-earned cash was wasted I took to twitter and said what a bad experience I have had. I wasnt expecting anything in return, let alone a reply, but the next morning I was contacted by said restaurant and asked to email them with details of my experience the night before. I did, and after a lovely email apologising I was offered a complimentary meal. I was completely taken aback by this and never expected such an apologetic email and offer. My faith in this restaurant and customer service was instantly restored. On returning the next week I had a lovely dinner and got the service that I had always experienced there. I will definitely be returning!

My second and third experiences of terrible service came from a Cuban Bar and a local Spa, both of which I have visited before and had a lovely time. Both ended up feeling the rath of my tweets due to the poor service given by one member of staff, not the company but one particular person who ended up being rude and unhelpful. This is the unfortunate problem with customer service, all you need is for one person to let the team down and the reputation of everyone suffers. I tweeted both businesses and only one, the Spa responded, apologised and has offered me discount off my next treatment. I have heard nothing from the Cuban Bar and neither have my friends who I was with and also took to Twitter that night.

Am I wrong to think that if you work in a customer service role you should strive to offer the best service? I do not want to seem like I live in a dream world, I know that sometimes you have a bad day and can be stressed but I would hate to think that in previous jobs customers have gone away thinking I am rude and unhelpful. I am of the mindset that you should offer service to customers in a way that you would want to be treated. I do not think this is too much to ask, is it? I am not saying that everyone should suddenly go out and complain about every little thing and take to twitter like revenge seekers, but rather do not be afraid to see the manager, or make your opinions known by email or twitter. There is no harm in it, and I can guarantee if the complaint is justified then the person in charge will appreciate it because most businesses do want to improve their customer service and offer the best service possible to their clients.

So I say stop being so British and demand not just good but great customer service. Some companies strive for this and use crazy marketing budgets to try to tell us how good they are at service while others it seems just do not care. Through feedback either vocally to a member of staff ( nicely!) or via a social media site then we can strive to force companies to be better to want to improve. After all if somewhere gets enough negative feedback they will have to turn things around otherwise no one will go there. We have a voice, dont abuse it, but use it to demand better, we all work so hard and to waste our money on a less than satisfying experiences is just not good enough.


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