I quite like being feisty. I’m a master – or mistress! – complainer and not ashamed to say so. A skill learned fairly early on in my entrepreneurial career and honed over many years, but I confess it took me time to learn how to complain properly.
For so long I just used to whine and moan, talking to everyone else about a problem – everyone apart from the people that could actually do something about the issue – getting angrier and more aggrieved by the minute. More moaning, more whining, and no resolution.
Then one day something happened in my business that made me apoplectic with rage. I had an agreement with a major retailer to fulfil the rest of an agreed order of my Quest games – and it was a pretty big deal, a hefty five-figure sum – but the local buyer just wasn’t communicating with me. Every week for about six months, I called, emailed, called again, emailed again. Nothing, no response whatsoever (buyers are indeed a law unto themselves…).
Finally, after trying every angle I could think of, the buyer finally responded to my latest request asking when would he take in the rest of my Quest Games order for Christmas. His response? “If you wanted me to get your games in store for this Christmas you should have contacted me six months ago.”
Mmm. You can imagine my response. Not exactly a happy bunny. I wrote back to him detailing and evidencing all my communications over the past six months (keep a note of all communications – you will need it at some point!) and gave him two weeks to get back to me, indicating if no response, I would take it further. Two weeks later, not a cheep from him. So, he was advised I would take it further. And I did.
I googled the company in question, found out the names of all 14 directors, including the Chairman and CEO, wrote a strongly worded but polite letter, and sent it to every single one of them. All 14 of them. I detailed my complaint, all the issues, asked for a meeting with a main board director within two weeks, and for them to fulfil the rest of their legal obligation to me and pay me what I was due.
Two days later I was in London and met with the Trading Director of this big four retailer. I walked into the meeting and there he was with all 14 of my letters spread out in front of him…and with a cheeky grin said to me “Well, you’ve been busy!”. We got down to business, he listened to me intently, and by the time I got back to Scotland that night I had been paid…and two days later all my games were back on the store floor in this retailer. Result!
But an even bigger result was the key lesson I learned from this whole debacle. The Trading Director thanked me for bringing the problem to his attention and said he hardly ever got direct complaints. No-one bothered to contact him about a problem, they just complained to everyone else, not to the person who could actually do something about it – a person with authority. From then on, I made a pact with myself not to let problems fester, but to take immediate action at a very senior level if I didn’t get the results I am looking for.
So, in summary, here are my top tips for getting a speedy resolution to a complaint:
1.Persevere for a defined short timescale with your original complaint. Give them the opportunity to resolve.
2. Keep a detailed record of all communications.
3. Be polite but firm. And keep calm.
4.When you need to escalate the issue, tell the person you have been dealing with to date you are going to do so, it’s only fair.
5. Go to the top, right to the top, the very, very top. No messing.
6. Put it in writing, the old fashioned way. Not an email, not a call. A letter – it’s far more effective.
7. Again, to reiterate, be polite but firm. No need for any form of abuse. It’s unprofessional. And humour helps too…
8. Get clear in your head what you want to achieve and articulate it clearly.
9. Don’t take no for an answer. Be clear, concise and fair. And boringly dull and persistent.
10. Make sure you are dealing with someone who can actually do something about it. Speak to the organ-grinder, not the monkey. That’s why it is far easier to go right to the top from the start. Always.
Till next time, happy complaining!