People Always Complain About That

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The other day I was at my hotel waiting for my client to pick me up for a meeting. I wanted a quick breakfast, so I went to the hotel’s coffee shop to pick up some oatmeal. They had instant oatmeal in a cup. The cashier added the hot water and $4.00 later I was on my way. I sat down at an open seat in the hotel lobby and noticed that my oatmeal looked more like soup that oatmeal. Usually, you just wait a few minutes and the oatmeal thickens up, but that was not the case. So, I walked over to the coffee shop to see if they had any suggestions. Her response: “People always complain about that.”

She was very nice and gave me my money back. I started to think about what happened. If “people always complain about that,” then why do they continue to serve it?

The other night I was at a restaurant and when I went to order the server politely and honestly said, “Sir, you don’t want to order that entrée. I’ve never heard a guest say it was great, and we end up taking many of them back to the kitchen. More people complain about that dish than any other.  I don’t know why it’s still on the menu.”

Well, I don’t know why it’s still on the menu either!

We do an exercise in our customer service workshops. We ask the audience members to confer with their colleagues to answer the following question: “What are the most common complaints that you hear?”

I’m amazed at how many “common complaints” there are. Why are they common? Why do they keep happening? Why hasn’t someone done something about these complaints?

Sometimes the same complaints will be heard again and again. Some of those may not be under your control. For example, one of the top complaints we hear from our clients is the books they order didn’t show up. Typically (as in almost 100% of the time), the problem is with the shipping company. Once it leaves our office, it’s out of our control. But, to the client, it’s our responsibility. And, we accept that. We have a process in place and an explanation that always makes the client happy.

So, the lesson is short and sweet. If you hear people complaining about something, not once or even twice, but again and again, do something about it. Take it off the menu. Change up the process. Get rid of it. Do something so the people no longer “always complain about that!”

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