It shrinks your brain. Yes, we know.
It puts people off you. Yes, yes.
It makes you unhappy.
Yes, yes, we know that too, but sometimes the only thing that stands in the way of you and something you need is a complaint.
I don’t like doing it. I’m a suffer quietly and get outta there kind of person, but sometimes the opportunity cost of sucking it up is just too high.
Anyway, the occasional and artful, moan-with-intent doesn’t make you Ebenezer Scrooge.
A well-executed complaint strategy is something you can put together to counter many of today’s annoying service or product failures. But use it sparingly, or you’ll get a reputation.
A friend of mine told me about a dispute he had with a significant UK real estate agency. They owed him £2000 for some legitimate reason. He’d asked, emailed and phoned and even stopped into the office, and they’d all but laughed him away.
So he took to Twitter and every day over a month he scheduled a tweet that said,
(bad estate agent) are c****
He soon got his money back.
While I need to stay off the C-word to obtain clients, I was inspired by his highly effective solution.
I deployed another tactic, not dissimilar to his because I opted for a Twitter campaign.
Below were the principles that took my issue from ignored to resolved in under 24 hours.
Last week a telecoms engineer was fiddling with the comms box on the street outside when he accidentally cut off our broadband and phone line.
It was a Friday lunchtime.
Friday night we logged a call. On Saturday we followed it up with another one and we were promised an engineer would come out over the weekend, though they couldn’t give a time.
Come Monday morning however, the engineer had not been, and the connection was not restored.
My boyfriend and I both work from home, so it’s officially a pain now. I phoned Monday morning to get an update. No update, no reason for the no-show but when speaking to the boyfriend they said they’d try for another appointment Thursday.
Well, if sticking to the first appointment meant so little we could hardly trust them when they offered to try to resolve it.
Boyfriend got mad, but I went on Twitter.
I’m a freelancing digital worker. I need the internet at home for meetings and work delivery.
The ‘Lost Time’ Campaign
I scheduled in hourly tweets from 3pm-9pm when the Twitter customer service line closed.
77 Hours #LostTime. Shame XXXX isn’t interested in helping customers of 10+ years. #CustomerService #CustomerExperience.
78Hours #LostTime. Really counting in my #telecoms provider to help out. Tricky to work with no #internet #phone
82 Hours #LostTime. Just had a case manager assigned. Here’s hoping XXX can come through on their promise. #Freelancer #Connectivity
After the very first tweet, I had a had a case manager assigned and by now they would have seen the hourly tweets coming through. 3 Hours after my first tweet I had a promise of an engineer the next day.
Do you mean you’re going to get someone to look at it tomorrow or do you mean it you promise it will be resolved tomorrow?
He promised it would be resolved the next day but just in case I kept the tweets coming from 8am the next day until an engineer knocked on the door and the connection was restored.
More than 12 but less than 24 since my first tweet and I know that had I waited patiently until Thursday that the connection may not have been restored.
Like I said earlier, I hate complaining, but in this instance, it was worth it and quite an enjoyable process with the storytelling and creativity included.
Notes On Complaining
Here are are a few focus points on the art of complaining.
1. Know What You Want Out Of The Complaint
Being clear about why you’re complaining in the first place will help you make sure that it’s worth launching a public or private campaign.
I’m not talking about revenge or smear campaigns. Life’s too short! But be clear about what you want.
I just needed my internet switched back on so I could get back to work. I made it clear early on in my Twitter campaign that that was what I needed.
The more you can articulate the resolution, the quicker it will come.
2. Pick a theme for the complaint.
Like a short story; pick a single theme and focus on that in your complaint. If you list out every inconvenience, you may take the form of a ranter, but a through line will give your complaints a focus.
I could’ve talked about the telephone being off, or not being able to watch television or a number of smaller inconveniences but I stuck with the line about needing to work.
It kept my complaint clear and coherent.
3. Stay Unemotional
Well, I probably didn’t exceed entirely with this one as I did accuse them of not being interested in their clients, but otherwise, I stayed clean.
No swearing, no caps, no flying off the handle. A simple conflict and resolution story to the complaint will go further.
The process is a game of maintaining the position of being the wronged. Swearing, being personal, losing control of your temper will lose this position of power.
4. Get Creative
I used storytelling and pictures to complain, which probably went a lot further than just a tweet rant — even one with a C-word.
It kept my storytelling theme while complaining and hopefully gave an impression of a good-natured customer; even as I moaned.
5. Stick ’em Where It Hurts
Twitter will only work for companies who have a significant presence. Whatever their weak spot is you should find it and speak via that channel.
Remember to stay pleasant, but there’s no use shouting where no-one is listening. Whether they run a Linked In Page, Twitter Account, or FB page take your story there.
6. Try Traditional Means First
Try the helpline or traditional means first. It gives you some complaint ammunition to be able to show that this gesture is born of frustration with their service.
7. Understand Your Complaint in The Context Of The World
Lost connection? Big deal when people are losing their lives and livelihoods. Stay respectful. Don’t act entitled. State your why and you won’t appear like your problem is the centre of the universe.
8. Say Thanks At The End.
Keep it sweet; you’ve got what you wanted. Keep the upper hand by saying thank you at the end. You’re a reasonable person. You need your services to be provided like anyone else.
Strategies like these shouldn’t make you feel like a complainer. I felt great when my connection was restored. There is a time, and a place for complaints and that is when other means have been tried.
Happy complaining and thanks for reading.