The Complainers: How I see it

Have you been watching The Complainers on Channel 4? The series has been focusing on the work of customer service staff in a selection of large organisations. In particular, it’s been following their exchanges with a set of customers known as ‘Super Complainers’.

Last night’s (10 June 2014) programme focused on the energy giant E.ON. Almost as interesting as watching the programme itself was the Twitter community at work during the broadcast (#TheComplainers). Unsurprisingly, a proportion of Tweets came out in sympathy with those making a complaint (and let’s be honest, many of us have had good reason to get frustrated with our utility companies); but the overwhelming majority of the comments I saw were critical of the way the featured complainers behaved towards the company’s representatives.

Some people will apparently never learn that ‘people will only ever treat you as well as you let them’. I have often spoken and written about how customer service professionals can unwittingly generate bad behaviour in an otherwise benign situation, by failing to meet the customer’s need to feel Understood, Valued and Reassured; but we as consumers also need to recognise that we will almost always get a better outcome if we remember to treat the company rep with basic common courtesy – however angry and frustrated events might be making us feel.

Every organisation, whether it sits in the public, private or third sector, is and should be answerable to its customers. That is beyond question. Indeed, for clued-up organisations it’s customer feedback – especially complaints – that provides the richest information about how to do things better and grow customer loyalty. Even so, we all do well to remember as we pick up the phone to ‘have a go’, that those so-called ‘faceless corporations’ are the place of work for many perfectly decent, well motivated people, whose faces look very like yours, your son’s, your mother’s, your girlfriend’s, your best friend’s…

How do you see it?

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