Include compliments when crafting complaints

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BBB Video Series logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Thank you” is one of the most powerful phrases in the universe. Put it to work when you’re problem solving for an effective, stress-free way to open the door to corrections, improvements and compensation.

Consumer advocacy for yourself or clients works best when the intent is positive, benefitting product and service providers as well as customers. Here are a few examples:

Reach for the Top: If an adjuster or service rep blows you off, compose a polite, heartfelt snail- or e-mail letter to the powers-that-be at corporate headquarters. Reaching the influencers can be easier than you think. For instance, did you know that many insurance companies have an entire department devoted to answering the president’s mail? A simple Internet search yields names and addresses.

Thank-and-Query: I e-mailed SC Johnson to thank it for disclosing the ingredients in its air-freshening products and to ask why the new aerosol spray mechanism doesn’t dispense as well as the old, leaving fluid in the bottom of the can. Prompt, cordial e-mail advice (use in upright position) was followed by coupons for free products.

My Problem, Your Solution: A tooth-crunching attempt to properly prepare quinoa prompted my e-mail to Mother Nature’s Earthly Choice via its website. The company sent me a replacement bag and instruction clarifications. I returned the kindness by posting and tagging a Facebook photo to express my thanks.

Quality Reassurance: Reports of widespread chlorine use in baby carrot processing sent me to the Bolthouse Farms website, where concerns were promptly allayed. Company websites are a direct, simple way to get the straight scoop on harmful additives or other dietary concerns, from mercury in fish oil supplements to aspartame in multivitamin supplements. Post results of your fact-finding mission for friends and family

Zen Again: I recently cancelled my subscription to YogaToday, regretfully, as I noted in an e-mail to the organization, because I adore the instructors and the overall feel of the site. There just weren’t enough new classes to keep my practice fresh. In a case of copacetic timing, YogaToday was preparing to launch a new site with new classes. YT enticed me back with an extended complimentary membership. All I can say is Namaste!

The adage “catch more flies with honey than vinegar” works. Compliment what you can, even if it’s just thanking the company for the opportunity to comment. Polite, honest and well-documented presentations most often net a satisfactory result. If not, there’s still satisfaction in knowing you’ve done your proactive best. You may unknowingly be adding your voice to a building movement that will eventually roust the inept, the rude, the incompetent, the unethical or the unnecessary. Depending on the severity of the problem, if you don’t receive a response from the company you may file a formal complaint with regulatory agencies or consumer organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau. BBB is online and more responsive than ever.

For example:

Shooing Shysters: An attorney who charged me for an initial consultation although his website specifically stated the service is free knows how I feel about that. So does his state bar association.

Muffling Mechanics: I may never find out if my mother’s “trusted” auto repair and tire shop is still charging customers for engine work it does not perform or putting too-large, more expensive tires on vehicles when it thinks it can get away with it. But the shop knows how my family feels about the rip-offs and why it no longer has our business.

Sweet Success: When the masses asked Yoplait to cut high-fructose corn syrup from its products, the company complied. Just goes to show that when you take the time to reach out with authentic, generous intent you can do more than get free stuff or get a gripe off your chest. Making a worldwide difference is a possibility.

As a consumer how do you react to less-than-stellar service or products? On the other side of the spectrum, how do you handle customer complaints?

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