The Complaints Window is Open

I saw a Nationwide Insurance commercial recently in which the visually impaired employee named Michael Piccerello expressed in 30 seconds a concept covered in one of my favorite B books: Janelle Barlow’s “A Complaint is a Gift.”

When a customer takes the time to complain, they are really giving you a gift – a gift of their time. Customers are not required to give you this gift. In fact it is a major imposition on them. Most people avoid uncomfortable situations when they can – it’s just human nature – and complaining is often very uncomfortable. That’s why so few customers take the time to complain. In fact, for every complaint you hear, there are nine more customers that have the same complaint, but do not choose to voice it.

On the rare opportunities when you hear a complaint, always remember, there are nine others who would be saying the same thing. So thank the customer. Thank them for their time. Thank them for giving us a chance.

Well, in most business, customer service is part of the product. “A Complaint is a Gift” underscores that if you aren’t listening to the customer, and then striving to set wrongs right, you may as well close up shop and go home.

Wow, I thought. That is so right. It’s the very reason our company exists: Five years ago we were so concerned with what our customers were saying that we ultimately severed ties with our largest supplier. They dictated that we deliver a lower quality, residential grade product, when what customers really wanted was superior product, business grade product. We listened and determined that (rather than sitting with our fingers in our ears and pretending there were no complaints) we would re-invent ourselves to become what our customers asked of us. We knew that delivering the right product would be harder, it also knew it would be, well, the right thing to do.

We obviously haven’t stopped hearing complaints – they are part of any business – but we’ve learned to say “Thank you” and recognize a complain for what it really is – an opportunity to improve. Like any organization, we solve some problems better than others, but we’re constantly striving to meet customer demands, and solve customer issues.

And we encourage customers to complain. Ms. Barlow writes that most complaining customers don’t complain to their vendor – they complain to each other, and largely feed each others’ frustration. See online forums. Once in a while you’ll see a knowledge leader step in and parse the misinformation, but often customers complaining to each other are acting on partial information.

I’ve given copies of “A Complaint is a Gift” to my customer care and account managers, and have put a few copies in the employee lounge lending library. I’m talking up customer engagement, staying on the phone until the issue is resolved, versus “three minutes per call,” and being available to talk 24/7/365. I’m the Chief Customer Officer here at Skycasters, and I take my responsibilities seriously.

So, please, if there’s something we’re not doing right, give us a call. We’ll be sure to say “Thank you.”


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