We’re taught that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Generally speaking, it’s a good rule of thumb. But not when it comes to your customer service experience. As I often preach on this blog, the way you are treated, the service you receive, and your general level of satisfaction in any B2C interaction, is well within your control. We forget this, quite often, for a number of very good reasons:
1) We’re taught to be polite. Confrontation is a no-no. Smiling and nodding is the right thing to do. And stifling our own feelings to spare someone else’s is always easier. Right?
2) We’re exhausted. And kinda lazy. We’re rarely in the mood to put up a fight. We’d rather eat the wrong meal or drink the wrong coffee than exert the energy or patience to get a mistake corrected.
3) We’re conditioned. Our expectations for customer service have diminished so significantly (Thank you, American work ethic!) that trusting a barista to remember complicated instructions such as “skim milk please” is just…sigh…too much for us to hope for anymore.
So we let a lot go. We confuse assertiveness for aggressiveness. We quell our frustration. We spend more than we should for less than we want. It’s the price we pay (literally and figuratively) for not speaking up.
My greatest tip for breaking this habit is:
Change the way you think about “expressing dissatisfaction.”
1) Still be polite. There’s a difference between complaining and delivering feedback. Feedback should always be offered in a tactful and kind way. If your goal is to remedy an issue, give the offending party an opportunity to do so. It’s the opposite of rude, really.
2) Stop being lazy. And stop thinking of it as “putting up a fight.” Correcting a mistake, clarifying a request, or flat out changing our mind are all part of your experience. You’re in charge, so start acting like it.
3) Raise your own bar. Being clear about your personal expectations for service is entirely reasonable. If an establishment isn’t willing to meet those standards, you should be willing to find an alternative provider. It’s your time and your money. And there is no lack of companies, restaurants, landlords, taxi drivers or airline carriers who would be willing to take it.
For me, speaking up has yielded some major customer service wins (not to mention complimentary booze, discounts and stronger relationships). And it’s surprising how powerful this tip can be.
Por ejemplo, one might think that a single customer has no control over the background music that’s being played during your mall shopping experience. Not so.
Recently, I was shopping for shoes at DSW at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. I was in a good groove until they started playing that God forsaken Paula Cole hit from the 90s about a housewife whose romantic hopes and dreams are dashed when she becomes trapped in a sexless, loveless marriage. What a bummer, right? And that infuriating Yippee yaaa, yippee yayy! nonsense left me with a six hour earworm.
I spoke up on Twitter:
And guess, what? DSW is now working to have Paula Cole music pulled from their in-store playlists. See the email for yourself…
When was the last time you spoke up? And what did it accomplish?