Responding to Complaints: Part 7

10 November 2011


In the last of the series on responding to complaints, we’ll cover the final question for unjustified complaints:


This person complains all the time just to see how much we’ll give him. I’m going to have to get firm with him.


Some customers seem to make a career of complaining. I don’t know if they’re trying to get more from companies, or if they’re just perpetually negative. But I’ve seen files of complaints from ‘troublesome customers’ that are several inches thick!


(When I hear about that kind of person I want to tell them, ‘Get a life!’)


Major or minor complaint?

I can understand wanting to complain about a major problem, but quite often you’ll hear career complainers griping about little things – a frontline staff member that seemed impatient or didn’t greet them with a smile, a regular fee that they always want waived, a discount offered by another business that wasn’t extended to them, and so on.


And if the company doesn’t comply with their demands, they insist they’ll take their business elsewhere (but they seldom do).


(When I hear threats like that, I want to say, ‘Good-bye!’)


Another thing they’ll often want is to know what the company does to punish the staff ‘guilty’ of wrongdoing. They even want that information in writing!


What to do?

Many companies don’t try to fight with perpetual complainers. After all, if the gripes are minor and don’t cost much to keep the customer satisfied, then the company will go ahead and give in.


Unfortunately, with some customers that only adds fuel to the fire. They keep on complaining, just to see what they can get.


Enough is enough

After a while, giving in to minor demands adds up and can cost a company a fair amount of money, both in concessions and in staff time to research cases and write replies to the customer.


That’s when it’s time to get firm and say ‘no’. Here are two examples of how to reply.


Example 1: Complaint about late payment fees


Dear CC [‘career complainer’]


We have just received your third request in the past five months for a waiver of late payment fees.


Our records indicate that we have already waived this fee for you twice, in May and August.


We understand that you are often out of town on business and can’t always make your monthly payments on time. But continuing to waive this fee for you would be unfair to other customers who ensure that their loan payments are made by the due date each month.


Therefore, we are unable to waive the late fee for you again.


May I suggest that you set up an automatic payment instruction at your bank? This will ensure that the payments are made on time, and you won’t have to worry about being too busy with your work and travel.


I am enclosing an automatic payment form for you to complete if you choose to set up this instruction. I have partially completed it with our company bank account number and your name and payment account with us. All you need to do is complete your bank details, sign it and return it to your bank. It usually takes 3-4 weeks to process, so please ensure that you make your next payment to us on time. We will let you know when the instruction takes effect.


Please call me on 98xx-xx45 if you have any questions.


We appreciate your business with us.


Example 2: Complaint about staff attitude (and request for a report on what type of discipline we took)


Dear CC


Thank you for your call of 25 September concerning the service you received at our shop that morning.


We sincerely apologise for the concerns you had with our staff member’s attitude.


We take seriously the importance of providing the best service, and we do not tolerate any staff whose attitude to customers is impolite. Therefore, the shop manager has spoken with the concerned staff member and coached her on always providing polite and efficient service.


I hope you will understand that as a matter of privacy, we are unable to disclose the names of our staff, nor do we discuss externally the specific actions we take on staff discipline. But be assured that we do not take this kind of complaint lightly.


We appreciate your business with us, and are grateful for your feedback, which helps us continue to improve our service.


Other situations?

If you have examples of other ‘career complainer’ situations that you’d like help with, please send the details to me, and I’ll get back to you.

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