I am and have always been, passionate about customer service. Even before I started speaking and consulting about the subject, I have been militant about it. Business is too difficult for us to accept poor service. I believe we owe it to companies we care about to give them accurate feedback on all aspects of the service we experience with them. Granted, this is easier when we can give positive feedback. It is much more difficult when we think we should give the feedback, and it is negative. So, is there a way to give negative feedback that is more likely to be heard, and acted upon? I am not sure, but I have found some principles to work for me.
Trip Advisor tells me I am one of their highest rated reviewers in terms of the number of reviews I have done. While I am surprised by that, I am also honored by it. One reason I feel honored to be in that category with Trip Advisor is that I have (to my recollection, at least) never written a really negative review on Trip Advisor. I think I have only once in all of my reviews even given a business any negative feedback on Trip Advisor. The principle I have for this is “If I Can’t Say Something nice, I Don’t Say Anything at All!” That decision has helped me manage the number of reviews I write. It also means that if my experience with the business isn’t extremely positive, I do not take my time to write the review. I know that any of us can have a bad day, so I give the business a “pass” if my experience with them is occasional or one time, and it isn’t totally positive
Another principle of mine relates to negative feedback. When I give negative feedback, I prefer that it is anonymous. Since I teach and speak on customer service, I do not want to alienate my customers or potential customers. I can give the feedback verbally, and in some cases who I am is known, or I can give it anonymously in writing. Or I can just not give it if neither of these options is available to me. I do not trust that I will not be discriminated against in some situations if my name is attached to a negative review. Even if this is not the case, I am not willing to take the chance. I had a couple of experiences in the past week that are examples of this.
One was with a client, and I did not want to risk future business. The service issue was so obvious to me that I decided that if I told the client my opinion, nothing positive would be served. The other situation was so egregious that I decided that I have to give my feedback to upper management who should be able to evaluate it and rectify what needs to be corrected. What was involved in this second situation that made me report it?
In the situation I will report there were two people involved; one was a salesperson, and one was a manager. My concern was with both, and for very different reasons. The sales person was blatantly rude, in what she said and how she said it. I reported her to the manager at the time, and because he was so courteous, I agreed to let him deal with it, and not report it further. The problem became more complicated when I found out later that the manager had given us seriously incorrect financial information, which thankfully we did not act upon. He was so nice and so convincing that we almost took the bait, but didn’t. Other people could easily be duped, and we almost were. The principle in this situation is that if I have information that could harm someone else if I don’t report it, I am obliged by good conscious to report it. I could not think of this as a one-time bad day and give him a pass. I in good conscious must let the company know of my experience, and it is their responsibility to decide how to deal with it. In this situation, it was not difficult for me to decide what I needed to do.
Giving customer service feedback takes time, and time is one thing none of us have enough of. I like to spend most of my time commending good service. In some situations, it is worth my time to give negative feedback, even when doing so is uncomfortable.