Consumer Feedback: Taking Your Complaints Local

We live in a very, very accessible world.

In a few keystrokes or with a couple clicks of a mouse we can see what nearly anybody thinks about nearly anything, anyone or anyplace.  Online reviews are a great way to get a feel for a place before you visit, or help you get an idea of what you might, or might not, be getting into.  Reviews usually come with a healthy mix of the local fans and those who will never have a good experience at any place – ever.  You have to read through and find the happy medium.  Sites like Trip Advisor actually let you search for reviews on destinations based on activities similar to your own.  You can see family reviews, honeymoon reviews, snowbird reviews etc.  This can be a big help in giving you a more accurate picture.

Online forums, reviews and social media have become a trough of feedback from consumers.  People rave and vent freely on these sites and companies pay tons of money to try and engage people to keep things controlled.  It’s a difficult game to play, and I’m guilty of jumping to social media to rant.  However, a recent experience at McDonald’s got me thinking about how trigger happy I was to jump to Twitter with bad experiences.

Go Local

Social media platforms for companies are often run by third party marketing firms.  Incident specific complaints are hard for them to nail down and resolve.  In more than one occasion my poor experience with a specific service was grievanced online.  It usually leads to some conversation, but no real concrete resolution.  In a recent visit to McDonald’s locally I was sent away from the drive through missing one of my burgers.  I had ordered a large meal for the family and didn’t have the chance to check the order before getting home.  My gut response was to tweet about it, lambasting the franchise for (again) screwing up the order.  However my wife suggested I call the restaurant and see if they can do something.

Sure enough a courteous shift manager apologized for the issue and corrected it by having the correct burger ready for me when I returned.  She even gave me a few other items free off the menu for my troubles.  In all honesty I would not have gotten this level of resolution from the McDonald’s twitter account.  It led to a bit of a revelation as far as how I the consumer could allow companies to remedy issues, and what is a better way to go about airing issues.

Said revelation is this:  try resolving the issue locally first, in the franchise or location where the issue occurred.  If it’s an online store call the customer service line first.  Many companies, particularly franchised locations, are eager and willing to deal with issues if the customer brings them up (and you have to be courteous about it).  Give them a chance to fix it here before you start spreading manure about the company as a whole on the public forum of the internet.  Dealing with it locally gives the opportunity for the issue to be addressed and resolved nearly instantly, much faster than it would online.

Reward those who listen

I made sure to call the franchise owner and McDonald’s customer service after my experience.  I intentionally remembered the name of the girl who served me so I could pass on how well she handled the situation.  Anybody who has worked with customers before – probably all of us – knows how frustrating and annoying customers who have been miffed are.  They rarely speak nicely and they’re almost always demanding.  It takes a smart manager to have enabled this girl to resolve the situation how she did and a true professional to take the call and immediately offer resolution.  If all you deal with are demanding, thankless people, we might quickly become jaded and less enthusiastic in our resolution to problems.

Being grateful is a great way to encourage that person or company to keep doing it.  Public recognition may also drive more people to be polite and professional in their approach to airing grievances.  If anything, a grateful attitude is a wonderful anecdote to the astonishing sense of entitlement we have developed as consumers (that’s for another rant).  Thank the person in person or on twitter – wherever the resolution occurred.  Do so immediately and genuinely.  Then take it a step further and thank their superior and commend the person you dealt with.  People by nature look for “whats in it for me” when they do things – make it worth their while to correct a mistake.  Shockingly they actually don’t have to do anything.  We as consumers aren’t very good at the boycotting thing.

Tweet respectfully strong

If all else fails, and there is a legitimate grievance, use the power of social media to try and get attention to it.  Even so, don’t sound like an entitled bratty 3 year old when you do it.  Angry posts often offend or belittle an issue whereas terse courtesy conveys the true weight of the grievance.  Just whining online isn’t fun for the company or the people who follow you.  Take it from me, someone who’ll jump to twitter before giving someone a chance to set the record strait.  It’s a tough habit to break.

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