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  • Sarah Ingleby

Complaints - what to do when things go wrong

Updated: Apr 6

How easy do you make it for someone to complain? No-one likes to be told they’ve made a mistake or done something wrong, but they are an opportunity to put things right, and to change your processes to avoid a repeat. So do you welcome feedback or stick your fingers in your ears and hope it goes away?


Many years ago I worked for a well-known high street bank, and one of our internal training courses was a video about complaints. I remember it still as it starred Richard Wilson in his Victor Meldrew persona, with the inevitable “I don’t belieeeeve it” 😊


There were a few take-away points that stuck with me

  • Feedback is generally left by customers who are either very happy, or very unhappy

  • A customer who has had a complaint resolved successfully will give better feedback than one who hasn’t ever had to complain

  • Most feedback is left by customers who are unhappy, and those customers are also most likely to switch to another provider

The company I’m trying to speak to at the moment appears to be following the head-in-the-sand strategy!


Some background: I pre-ordered a new Xbox game for my teenage son a year ago, and with one thing and another the release date was put back a few times. I’ve now had the email to say the release date is imminent and to log in to my account to check my payment details are up to date. No problem – email, password, account pops up…the pre-order isn’t showing. I update my payment details anyway, but I need to contact the company to find out why the order isn’t on there.


That’s where the fun starts. There wasn’t an order number on the email, or any contact details, so I logged on to the company’s website and headed for the ‘contact us’ link (which I found at the bottom of the page, buried among 30 other links). So far so meh.


Options:

Web chat – unfortunately this is an automated chat, with set questions, none of which include “my order isn’t listed on my account”. I tried various options to see if I would get through to a real person, but no such luck.

Email – this has a warning message: “We might take a day or two to answer your email.” OK, not the best start but I click the link…and I’m back to a pre-populated list of what my query relates to. Again, none of these are relevant, so I scroll on down and there are 3 small social media icons. Now it looks like I might be getting somewhere!

Facebook – I sent a message as directed, explained the dilemma, and awaited a response. After about 15 minutes I received a reply from ‘Dan’ asking for me to confirm my details, including the order number. The number I had already explained I didn’t have as it’s not showing on my account. Deep breath, and confirm the details I do have. Long story short (the whole interaction took over 4 hours) he managed to find my order number, and confirmed the amount. Brilliant, all happy again, but I now have a note of the order number. Just in case.


Fast forward a couple of days and I get another email, this time to tell me there had been a problem with my payment details, and to log on to review them. I log on – the order still isn’t showing and there’s no reference to a payment attempt. Back to the email, which tells me if there is a problem to follow the link and register an account. Only I already have an account. I follow the link anyway, and (not surprisingly) it won’t allow me to register because my email address is associated with an existing account.


I decided to try Twitter this time to see if the response time would be quicker than Facebook. It wasn’t, but I’ve now received a cut-and-paste telling me how to create an account. That thing I can’t do because I already have one! I’m counting to 10 slowly before each response at this point, and politely remind ‘Daniel’ that their system will not allow me to register a duplicate account, and could they merge this order with my existing account. An hour later I get

“I would advise you to keep trying the above steps as we cannot assist in amending the payment details further, than this, these steps should work.”


I chose not to respond immediately – I’m really trying to stay calm and polite – but this morning I messaged back and said that if he wasn’t able to assist further I really needed to speak to someone who can fix the issue, and maybe there’s a contact telephone number he could give me. That was over 2 hours ago and I still haven’t had an acknowledgement.


I’ve ordered through this company many times, and haven’t ever had a problem. My son has used Christmas and birthday money to buy both new and pre-owned games, and has a wish-list that he updates when new games are released or someone recommends one for him, and I admit I’ve never bothered leaving a review because I’ve always got what we paid for, delivered when it was expected.


As a happy customer I’ve always gone back to them. But now I’m not happy, and I’m not sure what to do about that. My query isn’t being managed appropriately, I can’t complain directly because there’s no option for that (well, technically there is but it’s a broken link that suggests you may have typed the address in wrong), but if I hit social media and complain about how rubbish they are being that would be unfair because this is the first time.


In the meantime I’d like to make the following suggestions:

  1. Don’t ignore complaints. Things do go wrong – we are all only human – but when we think no-one is listening it compounds the mistake.

  2. Review your complaints policy. A good policy will have maximum response times and a detailed escalation process.

  3. Keep a record of all complaints. Even if it’s a comment during a phone call, or a single line in an email, make a note of it. That way you can see if it’s a recurring issue and you can look at the processes you have in place.

  4. Apologise. This may sound obvious, but just owning your mistake and saying sorry does help.

  5. Offer a solution. If you are not sure how to resolve the problem, ask the customer what they want to achieve.

If you need help to write a complaints policy, prepare a process document, or to review any other policies you currently have in place email me directly at sarah@smallbizbod.com or message me using the chat box at the bottom of this page.


Now I’m going to go back to watching my DMs to see if I’ve had a response 🤞


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