I am such a stickler for good customer service that my family and friends often find it amusing when I fire off a letter to the chief executive of a company that has failed to deliver on a promise.
Perhaps they think it is sad or a waste of time? Over the years I have written letters on many subjects and usually get a good response.
I wrote to the MD of one well-known high street retailer when the third lamp in a row that I tried to buy from it turned out to be out of stock and they only had the display model left. I asked whether they actually had any lamps at all 'in the back'. On that occasion the MD's office replied by email within two hours and invited me to go along to another store with a nice £30 voucher in my hand.
I have had bottles of wine, theatre tickets, and shed loads of air miles over the years as recompense for lost luggage, cancelled flights and, on one occasion, an armrest that collapsed onto my finger turning it a frightening shade of red for over a week.
Sometimes I am surprised by the results I get. Last week a service provided by the local authority failed to work and I immediately sent them an email asking for the problem to be sorted out.
As I am also becoming increasingly exasperated by local and national Government I also took the extra step of using an extremely useful website called 'write to them.com' to get the name of my local councillor.
I wrote to him at the same time purely in anticipation of being fobbed off by the department I had written to first. Someone phoned me within an hour and I was pleasantly surprised when I found that they had sorted out my problem by lunchtime the same day. In the end I sheepishly wrote to the councillor again to compliment him on the turn around time.
On the whole if you write and give feedback, even on relatively minor issues, companies that provide genuinely good customer service will respond positively and, in many cases, will make some sort of gesture as well. For the companies that 'get it', complaints are a great method of receiving feedback and how they respond to those complaints is often what sets them apart from their competitors.
Like any other business sector, financial services doesn't always get it right and it can be easy for the complaints handling to become routine and to have a myriad of stock answers.
But time should always be taken to look over these complaints and learn from them. As marketing professionals and product developers, when was the last time you looked at the complaints your company receives? No, it isn't just a job for someone in customer services. It is another great way of understanding your customers and will ultimately help you to give them a better service, products and processes.
Handle the complaints well and you might start to get more letters of praise, which is another thing that amuses my family and friends. I do also often write to companies and express my appreciation, especially if their service exceeds my expectations.
If only I could remember the surname of the cabin services director who let me have a third bottle of wine on that flight back to Edinburgh before Christmas!
Roger Edwards is proposition director at Bright GreyIFAonline
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