February 19, 2009

How should you deal with complaints?

Recently I wrote about Ex-Virgin Blue employee Torsten Koerting who designed a board game using Virgin Blue branding that criticises his former employer’s decision-making process. Well now Virgin Atlantic is in the spotlight. Passenger Oliver Beale found the inflight food bizarre and gross so wrote a letter to Richard Branson about it (complete with photos) and it is hilarous!

“I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard.”

“ I'll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it's Christmas morning and you're sat their with your final present to open. It's a big one, and you know what it is. It's that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it's not in there. It's your hamster Richard. It's your hamster in the box and it's not breathing.”

“Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It's mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month.”

You can read the letter in full here. It, like the board game turned into a big media circus. When the media asked Richard Branson about it he said “I read it and laughed my head off.” He had a great chat with Oliver Beale about it and asked him to help improve their food presentation.

Complaints to your business may not be as epic as these two Virgin stories, but they are just as important. What mechanisims do you have in place to deal with complaints (big and small)? It is something you need to seriously consider before it happens not when it happens. Some companies have fantastic, fast systems and really really go all out for the customer, while others show a really rubbish attitude and try and argue with the customer telling them why they are wrong. It is these places that don’t feel the need to compensate the customer in some way. That attitude makes the complaint even more serious and annoying for the complainer – a defensive attitude from the company is a terrible way to react, and speaks volumes about their business. Think carefully about how your company deals with complaints at every level.

*Do you treat written ones different to verbal?
*Do you react faster when the customer has smoke coming out their ears (and drag your feet when it’s a softly spoken old woman complaining)?
*Is your whole team up with how to handle any complaint?
*Who has authority to compensate the customer?
*How will you deal with future complaints? What actions are you going to take/policies will you change?

I find it very necessary to end with a priceless quote which I shall now use whenever I’m short of something to say…. “Everyone likes a bit of mustard Richard”.

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