The Favor of Your Complaint

My expectations for quality service are higher than ever, and I don’t think I am the only one feeling this way


“When a customer complains, he is doing you a special favor; he is giving you another chance to serve him to his satisfaction.”

  —Seymour Fine, Author

expect good — if not great — service from every company with which I am a customer.

There are so many companies spoiling me with extraordinary service these days. My expectations for quality service are higher than ever, and I don’t think I am the only one feeling this way.

So, I feel really disappointed in companies that give me poor service and then assume I’m a guy with a few peas short of a casserole who doesn’t have the testicular-fortitude to complain.

I dislike being taken for granted.

That’s why I totally abhor any company that provides a service – about which I’ve politely complained – and then totally ignores the information I’ve shared with them about my unacceptable experience. It bothers me when my complaint is apparently directed to the “uncaring few” in the Department of Deaf Ears.

Now you might say that there could have been good reasons for a lack of a response. Maybe they are so big a company, maybe they field so many complaints, that they understandably took over four months to respond to my complaint. Right. And maybe there are reasons for their receiving so many complaints.

I wonder what Tony Hsieh, former CEO of would say about that excuse?

“At, we decided a long time ago that we didn’t want our brand to be just about shoes, or clothing, or even online retailing. We decided that we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience.” —Tony Hsieh,

Here’s the part of the customer experience for which most companies forget to create a structured plan: What about the steps you take when things ‘go south’? How do you handle the inevitable complaints?

Example: Airlines are under fire these days. Sure, it started when they switched to the incredibly punitive process of charging extra for baggage, itinerary changes, and even for carry-on bags. (I’ve heard that movie theaters make more money from popcorn and candy sales than from ticket sales. Maybe the airlines are moving to that same model.)

Now I’m not picking on airlines in general, just one, and you can probably guess which one. Here is a textbook case of how NOT to handle customer complaints:

Last August, my wife and I traveled to Montana. A last-minute schedule delay was texted to me 24-hours before our return flight. OK, I can deal with that.

But, upon picking up our baggage back home in California late at night, I discovered that my brand-new piece of luggage had been mercilessly crushed, mangled. We were exhausted and not up to waiting on line at the airline’s luggage counter. Big mistake.

The next day, September 2, my wife penned a detailed email to the airline, with glorious, full-color photos of the needless destruction. In December, after 90 days with no response, she emailed a follow-up letter. Finally, in January, we received a form letter telling us that they “were investigating this damage claim.”

Is this any way to run an airline?

Bottom Line: Your company has two opportunities to deliver an extraordinary customer experience — The initial service, and the response to the customer’s complaint. Create a systematic plan to handle both with professionalism, speed, and empathy.

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