Complaints can be pricey to solve, costly to ignore

NicDeCaireBy Nic DeCaire
Guest Columnist

Got complaints? Put a dollar value on the situation. They can be pricey to solve, costly to ignore.

Complaints are a given in business. When it comes to customer experience, it’s just about impossible to please everyone all the time.

Nobody likes to hear their business is sub-par or that they have rude employees, but we also don’t like to lose customers and revenue. As owners or managers, we need to learn which complaint battles to fight. You have to decide if the complainer is going to be a cancer on your business.

Is it possible to make them happy and satisfied, or are they inherently miserable? If it becomes apparent that they will tell every person they know about their complaint with your business, it’s probably worth cutting your losses and appeasing them in some way.

Every owner or manager has a story about complaints. Over the years, we have fielded customer complaints ranging from the toilet paper being too rough to the color of the front counter. Two complaints in particular come to mind: The “Maxim letter” and the “music e-mail.”

Once, I received a typed letter with no return address. The sender rambled on about how disgusted they were that I had Maxim on my magazine rack. They said it was insulting and degrading to women who work out in my facility and that I needed to take it off the shelves immediately. It was signed, “Anonymous.”

Now, Maxim may target male readers with photos of beautiful women on its cover, but truthfully it is no worse than Cosmopolitan, which also was sitting in our magazine rack.  For some reason that magazine did not offend this customer.

This was a tough decision because I had seen a lot of members reading this magazine. Since I didn’t know who the complaint came from, there was no way for me to have a conversation with the customer and rectify the situation.

I decided to take Maxim off the rack. In the end, it was no big deal. People didn’t miss it too much, and I potentially saved a client who could have spent thousands of dollars with us per year.  Remember: if you can’t value the complaint you do not know how much you stand to lose.

The “music e-mail” complaint actually should be called “learning from your own mistakes.” About three years after Fusion opened, I received an e-mail about the music played in our facility.

Apparently, the author was a nonmember who parked in front of the gym and walked to a neighboring business. This person didn’t like the sounds coming from our outside speakers, so they fired off an e-mail telling me that I should turn my music off outside because people didn’t like that “crap music.”

Because this individual wasn’t a member, I wasn’t going to make any money from him so I wanted to tell him what I really thought. Being young and naive, I did one better. I posted his e-mail to social media — minus the name — and held a contest for the best response. Honestly, some of the things our raving fans suggested I write back to this person were hilarious.

But as I look back at it now a little older and just a little more mature, I realize I should have simply sent back a reply e-mail stating that while we appreciate their opinion on our music, it’s a private parking lot and we can play whatever music we want.

No matter how you decide to handle complaints just remember one thing — it takes years to build a good reputation and only seconds to destroy it.

Nic DeCaire is the owner of Newark business Fusion Fitness and a member of the 2014 DBT 40 class.

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