Friday, 5 October 2012

Thought Picnic: Reasonableness is the test of a good compliant


Getting it heard
I have written many letters of complaint and the last few weeks I think I have been prolific. Upon reviewing some of them, I decided it would be interesting to share what I view as components or the anatomy of a complaint letter.
Now, the reason I complain is usually to get something done about the situation, I am assertive but never aggressive, detailed but I doubt to the point of verbosity. I am not a habitual complainant, if things are working as they should, I am mostly satisfied and I will commend the persons or the service.
Who can sort it out?
What I have noticed is I first explain the situation, how I am affected, how it affects me, the frustration it brings, appeal to their goodness, ask for a resolution and make it clear that it is not my last resort.
The most important part is knowing who to complain to, it has to be someone with authority who can do something about it, seek out managers, where they fail, seek out their managers until you get to where the balance of reputation over indifference is too high for the responsible party to ignore.
The test of reasonableness
The litmus test of a complaint is reasonableness. The question you should always ask yourself is, am I being reasonable and would an independent party reading this letter see the reasonableness of the redress I seek?
Basically, reasonableness forces the person you are complaining to to step into your shoes and feel the way you are feeling. Only sociopaths will not respond positively to a very reasonable complaint. In most cases, if not all, I have obtained better than the redress I have sought.
Here is one I wrote recently, the headers are just for guidance and I have removed specific information from with the text.
Who I am
To Whom It May Concern, [I had a contact email address to the head office with a name, someone was going to pick it up and then act on it.]
I am a long-staying guest in a party of 5 who arrived at your hotel recently. We are on business from the UK with a requirement that we have constant communication with our office in the UK and the United States by email and conferencing 24 hours a day as well as access to local amenities.
We moved from another hotel because of its poor standard and poor customer service, one of the reasons why we chose your hotel was because it had Wi-Fi which is essential for conferencing and much else.
The situation
Now, for over a week, we have lost this Wi-Fi service and the manager at the hotel appears to have been completely clueless as to why that service was lost, first she said it was a network problem with service provider affecting other hotels but each time we asked she had some other story that we independently contacted the service provider and found that the contract between them and your hotel had been cancelled.
When I told her this, she expressed surprise at the information insisting she was right, by which time, our frustration with the seeming inability for the manager to own the problem has led to a complete breakdown of trust in anything she has to say.
My frustration
We find that we are in a 4* hotel with 0* staff desperately trying to make our 3 week stay that was supposed to be home away from home a harrowing experience as if your hotel is vying for a Worst Hotel Prize just because of poor problem management and an apparent lack of consideration or forth-coming solution to a long-standing problem.
Any good hotel provides internet connectivity either free or paid for, there is never a case of the absence of that service and while people staying for just a few days might not bother, those like myself staying for weeks find the situation untenable but that other detail is we now have a good experience of how the hotel is being run - in this case, quite badly.
My exasperation spilling out
This morning, the manager had another one of her stories, a new phone line will be installed on Monday and thereafter, maybe, just maybe, and the wireless connectivity might be restored. I have no reason to believe that this problem will be solved by the time we leave.
We will however leave with memories of never to consider your hotel chain anywhere in the world and ensure that our review of your hotel on the websites where it appears will highlight we were residents for over 3 weeks and for 66% of the time we were locked in the worst French hospitality experience we have ever had - we don't even have the comfort of just one channel on our televisions in English to compensate for the loss of the essential internet service.
You can do something about this
I wonder if this situation can ever be redeemed, but with this email, I hope that those who matter have been informed that this matter will not end with our leaving your hotel on our departure, every seemingly local situation has the possibility of gaining a global face - hopefully it is for a good publicity rather than for ugly customer service.
Yours sincerely.
The resolution
By the time the day was over we were offered a contingency Wi-Fi service that all guests could use from the hotel lobby, I was offered a discounted stay for my next visit, I engaged the manager in consequent problem-solving and by the time we left, the full Wi-Fi service had been restored to the hotel.
My frustration was borne from my having obtained more information about the problem than was volunteered by the staff at the hotel, the only thing I could do was escalate the situation to their head office where someone fully understood what I felt and acted to ameliorate the situation.
I will in due course share other effective complaint letters that get things done.

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