{25/07/2012}   Making complaints about poor service and the guilt that goes with it

Why do I have complainer’s guilt?  If you get bad service, particularly for something you are paying for, you have every right to complain when it’s not up to scratch.  So why on earth do some complaints make me feel guilty or that I’ve been unfair?

I wonder if it’s a bit of a British cultural thing whereby we don’t like to upset people.  But the reality is that if you’re complaining about something, you’re upset so shouldn’t feel bad about making someone else upset.  And so it goes round and round!

Last week, two friends tried to go into a café at lunch time.  Bizarrely, the doorway had two chairs across it, yet there were a few people eating/drinking inside and one of the owners was behind the counter.  So one of them asked if they were open, to which he was given a curt “No” before carrying on with whatever he was doing.  Both friends were fairly regular customers of this café and should have been recognised by the owner.  The friend who had spoken wrote a complaint on their Facebook page and a scathing review about their customer service on Trip Advisor.  Bear in mind that there have been customer service issues before, though never that extreme.  So far so good and reasonable, right?

They then responded on Facebook and asked for him to go in so they could address the comments.  Then I started to feel bad because someone else had seen the Facebook comment and posted that they didn’t like poor customer service so wouldn’t be going there.  But the comments weren’t unreasonable and they did reflect how he felt at that time.  I have no idea how they will address it, if indeed such an exchange occurs.  But I was surprised by how bad I felt that there were negative comments up there that they obviously wanted to address.  Silly really because the owner had an opportunity to be polite at the time, he just needed to have explained why it was closed despite being open, it wouldn’t have taken much, however bad a day he may have been having.  Or he could have put a notice on the chairs explaining why the café was unexpectedly closed at lunch time.  Customers don’t want to go places where there is a chance they will not be treated decently or with respect and simple courtesy.

Poor service has stopped me going to a lot of places.  Nowadays, it’s easy to write or read reviews, and perhaps we take them too seriously.  But if I’d read about that café having poor service, I wouldn’t have wanted to go there if I’d never been before.  Is that fair?  Should we not make our own minds up?  Or should we quietly seethe, only venting to our friends about shoddy customer service?  How should owners respond to complaints or criticism?  It’s true that we remember the negative more than the positive.  But in terms of his writing negative comments, he was perfectly justified.  I’m not sure that their, come in and we’ll talk about it, type of response was ideal, but the public nature of reviews nowadays makes it uncharted territory to an extent.  I have no idea how they will address the issue, given the chance, but customers can and should be particular about where they spend their money.  And I shouldn’t feel bad that someone sounds upset about negative comments when it was their rude behaviour that triggered the complaint in the first place.


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