The power of a gentle complaint

I can be an unpredictable customer sometimes. I can sway the entire spectrum between being really nice, to being the “customer from hell”. Perhaps because I’ve tried so many different ways of getting myself across as a customer, I’ve learned and realised the power of a gentle complaint.

It’s a matter of saying something, but saying it in a way that it comes across more as a concern than a complaint. It has proven to be a good way to communicate not-so-serious mistakes or lapses, and also has the potential of allowing you to experience better service, or even perks.

One concrete example a few years back was when I brought my family to this certain Japanese restaurant chain to treat them out for lunch on my birthday. I really liked that restaurant for their food, but somehow the maki platter looked sloppily done on that particular day. We continued with our lunch without fuss. Nearing the end of the meal, I saw the supervisor nearby and approached him to tell him gently my disappointment with the maki platter. I didn’t ask or demand for anything, I just told him like I just wanted him to know, out of concern. I was surprised during the bill-out, when he gave me a complimentary discount card of the restaurant, which I was also able to use for the same meal. I’ve used that same discount card several times thereafter.

Another example was fairly recently, when I was having breakfast buffet at a five-star hotel. One of the servers did something wrong while I was in the middle of my breakfast, and I was very much disappointed because I was not expecting something like that to happen in a five-star hotel’s restaurant. Afterwards, a different server approached and asked if I needed anything, and I gently told her about what happened and my disappointment. I told her to inform their supervisor about it, but that I do not necessarily need to talk to the supervisor anymore. A few minutes after, the supervisor approached me and apologised for the incident, and I explained directly to him what happened and why I was very disappointed. I did not request for anything, but he did provide special attention afterwards to compensate, including offers of special coffee and fresh fruit drinks. Even during breakfast on the day after, the special attention continued. It was great service recovery for them, and I got to be treated fairly well.

There may be a few more instances like this which got me across better than not saying anything or saying something offensively. I’m not claiming that I’m this amazing customer all the time. Some friends and family may be able to recount times when I have turned ballistic as a customer, but these instances do make me realise how customer feedback should be.

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