Why do people complain? After all, it’s a natural part of human behavior. People complain about anything from the weather, dangerous drivers, slow WI-FI, waiting in line, and leaving toilet seats up! Simply stated, if something doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re going to let someone know! This spills over into the business world after purchasing products or services that fail to meet our needs. And when we try to resolve problems, companies often inflame our issues with poor, unresolved customer service. Before lodging major complaints or experiencing serious dissatisfaction, consider the following preventative measures.
Research potential purchases: Subscribe to “Consumer Reports” ($30 per year). This non-profit organization independently tests products and services using unbiased professional staff combined with thousands of members’ input (consumerreports.org). Membership includes online access for product ratings and a monthly magazine.
Examine “latest” customer website ratings on Amazon, social media, Trip Advisor (travel), and Yelp, or type in Google “Consumer reviews for XXX product.” Beware! The Washington Post warns that 40% of online ratings, generated by artificial intelligence, sly companies, and competitors, are fake and misleading! Study differing comments using various platforms before purchases. Friends who have utilized contractors or bought products are also great resources.
Your advanced assessments often result in improved customer satisfaction and fewer complaints. Saving money is important, so be patient—avoid rushing the buying process and seek good deals (Most companies match competitor pricing). Don’t go cheap—seek quality! There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for!”
Seek reputable companies: Amazon, Lowes, and Home Depot reimburse or provide gift certificates for unwanted or defective products within reasonable time periods. Inquire about written warranties and return policies (found on their websites) for major purchases such as dishwashers. Utilize credit cards since businesses track sales (if you lose receipts) and American Express, Mastercard, or Visa usually provide protection versus using cash, checks, or debit cards with few safeguards. Some cards add an extra year to the manufacturer’s warranty. For returns, don’t throw away original packaging until you’re certain you want to keep items. Store home and business purchases/warranties in easy-to-find files—you’ll eventually need the documentation! They’re invaluable when problems surface or verification when, for example, selling your house.
Remedy problems before complaining: You’ll be surprised, even without technical skills, that you can repair many inoperative products using YouTube or Google by typing “How to troubleshoot (Brand/model) with (List symptoms).” Or you’ll determine when to contact experts. Sometimes, problems are cured by unplugging electronic devices for 5 minutes or flipping circuit breakers that provide electricity to equipment. When re-connected, components are re-configured to the manufacturer’s settings. These strategies often work!
Define expectations to avoid problems: Unless you know contractors, serious issues can occur, especially with complex projects. Solicit several “written bids” from reputable vendors to define the lowest prices since they’ll often match competitor costs. It’s interesting how specialists view your project differently. Listen to their free innovative ideas and experience. Develop written agreements both parties sign outlining work details, costs, payment schedules (when project stages are completed), timelines, and other important items before work begins. While less preferred, e-mail or text exchanges that document agreeable negotiation trails may suffice—avoid non-documented verbal contracts. Attempt paying by credit cards for their insurance protection or checks to track payments (not cash but obtain receipts if you do). Some contractors require up-front financial advances to purchase supplies—shoot for 20% or less. Monitor work during the process to ensure hired workers are following agreements and implement changes as work progresses. Avoid payments for each work stage until all activities are satisfactorily completed, especially the last one. Otherwise, you’ll lose your priority and power to control final outcomes.
Pay for extended warranties: Products these days are made with inferior parts and anything that’s moveable and electronic is prone to break or fail. That new washer you’re buying to replace your beloved 20-year-old appliance probably won’t last long! Buying 5-year warranties for $100+ on significant purchases are well worth added assurances. Every major item we purchased with Lowes’ warranties over the last ten years was activated—sometimes multiple times for service or replacement on single units. Yep, got a new washer after 5-years!
Is it worth complaining? In his bestseller “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Carlson recommended not allowing trivial things to consume your life—it’s not worth getting bent out of shape or wasting time complaining. We often allow major stressful problems in other areas of our lives to flow into non-related issues that result in complaints. In other words, we’re primed when small incidents occur that ignite our tempers! So, “pick your battles” and overlook insignificant matters unless there are irritable patterns.
Express small concerns early: There will be incidents that warrant immediate action. For example, if you ordered meals that were unsatisfactory, with a friendly smile, describe the situation to servers and ask them to please remove items, replace them with other ones, or discount bills. This approach often solves problems since staff desires generous tips. If this strategy fails, don’t attack but “calmly” inquire with managers to address dissatisfaction. Decline waiting until you return home to stew over problematic issues with regret that could have been addressed on-site. It’s more difficult to lodge complaints “after paying and leaving the crime scene.”
The Bottom Line: We’re in a different buying world today where bottom-line profits are paramount with less emphasis on customer happiness and product quality. Remember Murphy’s Law is alive and well: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!” The 2020 National Customer Rage Study reported: “A whopping 58% of respondents who complained failed to achieve anything!” Our next article shares specific suggestions on how to prepare and implement successful major complaints…sometimes. Stay tuned.
Write Mike at [email protected]. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com and register to receive his monthly articles or Daily Thoughts plus free access to his books, including “The Art of Building Great Businesses.” The website includes 100+ published articles he has written on business, travel, and personal topics, in addition to health research with Surb Guram, MD.