As business owners and consumers, we’ve all been on both sides of the complaints discourse – the complainer and the complained about. While I shudder at the thought of receiving a complaint, I know it’s the most valuable thing my business can receive. Bring it on. When it comes to making complaints, I’m not exactly in the ‘grumpy old man’ category – yet – but I certainly don’t hesitate to provide feedback if I think it will lead to my service provider making real improvements.
Thanks to the Web, the whole customer feedback loop is now in hyperdrive. Word of mouse. Disgruntled customers don’t just tell their friends, they tell the whole world. Get used to it. Be proactive and ask your customers for complaints so you can address them before one of them has a chance to set up www.yourbusinesssucks.com . The Net is no place to hide from your shortcomings.
What started about 10 years ago with a few enterprising netizens using Web pages to get even with companies who did them wrong, is now a global consumer activist movement. Consumers are empowered, businesses are held to account. www.thesqueakywheel.com has a proven strategy of listing complaints and automatically emailing the company every time someone views the complaints page. Naturally they have a very high success rate! www.ripoffreport.com is another great site, as is www.complaints.com.
www.notgoodenough.org is home-grown and has a 54,000-strong membership base, actively discussing, reviewing and advising business and consumers on customer service. If you end up on the ‘gripes’ list, all is not lost – just be sure to do something about it.
Choice www.choice.com.au has evolved fabulously from its print roots to become a formidable force. A founding member of Consumers International way back in 1960 – www.consumersinternational.org – Choice is involved at every level, sitting on an incredible selection of boards and committees, promoting best practice, standards compliance, service and quality. Of course the Choice Website has plenty of scope for user interaction, including nominating yourself for election to the board.
Customer complaints and comments can show up anywhere online, it’s scary. You never know who is saying what and how deep any feelings run until you take a good hard Google at yourself. Deep in a discussion board about ISPs and broadband has sprung up a thread about the pros and cons of BarterCard – forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/731669.html with a couple of hundred posts and many thousands of views. This kind of stuff is happening everywhere about every business. All the corporate marketing in the world can’t erase these opinions – it pays to find them and heed them.
Another Aussie site www.complaintline.com.au has a cool motto – “To complain is human… to get results is divine.” One could complain that the site needs a graphic design once-over, but the content is excellent – covering 125 categories, suggestions on how to resolve issues amicably and support for businesses to better manage their complaints.
On the government front we are very fortunate in this country – The ACCC www.accc.gov.au and the Ombudsman www.comb.gov.au provide well funded top-level support, while every states’ Fair Trading department inform and encourage good complaints management and outcomes for all parties. Just Google your state for more.
It’s a bit of a serious column this month, but I’m in the middle of some major business improvements myself, and my customers’ feedback was the major impetus for change. With the silly season well and truly upon us, we all want that glow of satisfaction that business is good, and everybody loves us. Any complaints? Write to me!