Are you being heard with your complaint?
It’s a weekend ritual for thousands of Australians around the country. Heading down to their local hardware store to buy anything from garden tools to a whole new kitchen.
Those home reno stores lure you in with a sausage sizzle out the front and the in-store experts out the back. Once you leave you have a satisfied belly and enough confidence to tackle everything from minor repairs to a full-on renovation.
If you spend the time getting advice from the in-store expert and something goes wrong with what you buy, you’d expect to be able to replace it without an issue. Or get a full refund. At the very least, you expect to be given a fair hearing.
As many customers discover, it’s often not that simple.
Take the Wilsons. The South Australian couple were rightly excited about their new kitchen. Until they used the stove for the first time and saw a distortion in their splashback.
When they went back to the store to complain, they were shocked to be told that their polymer splashback should never have been used with a gas stove. This wasn’t information provided by the salesperson when they were buying it.
“They tried to say the guy who did the installation for us had ignored the warning or removed it,” Leigh said. “He was adamant there wasn’t one there.”
Leigh said the salesperson didn’t even ask what stove he was using with the splashback when he bought it. This is a question most of us would assume would be asked if a business was selling styles that could only be used with a particular type of stove.
Frustrated at the run-around he was getting from the giant retailer, and with his wife’s stress levels increasing, Leigh contacted Handle My Complaint, for help.
How Handle My Complaint can assist
“Jo (Ucukalo, founder and CEO) immediately got back to us and followed up,” Leigh says. “And she checks in every few days to see how we are going. I feel like we have an advocate, someone who is making sure something is done about the problem.”
When a customer complains, they need to feel heard. But Jo says they often are left chasing an answer and rarely deal with the same person twice.
“Instead, what happens is they end up being passed from one person to the next and their complaint gets lost,” she says. “With so many people involved it’s hard to see who’s responsible for delivering the outcome.”
When a customer lodges a complaint via the Handle My Complaint website, HMC becomes that crucial central point of contact.
"You entrust us to find the right person to get your complaint looked at and investigated. We are like your smart best friend who you turn to for guidance and support,” Jo says.
How common are complaints?
The Australian Consumer Survey was commissioned jointly by federal, state and territory governments. It found that one in three consumer respondents raised poor customer service as an issue. However, in most cases, this was a secondary issue rather than the core problem.
“People are getting in contact regarding an issue with a product or service and the complaint is not being handled correctly,” Jo says.
“What started as a complaint about one matter, perhaps a faulty product, quickly snowballs out of control. This is because the customer feels like they weren’t heard in the first instance.”
Fortunately, most of the time buying an item or using a service usually happens with minimal fuss. The flipside, however, is that when there is an issue it can be daunting to work it out.
What are the hurdles to being heard with your complaint?
It is often very difficult to determine on a company’s website where to even make a complaint, let alone actually speak to someone who will see the complaint through to resolution.
“The days of speaking to the manager have gone and the ability to make decisions has been decentralised. Customers just don’t have access to the decision maker,” Jo says.
“If the problem doesn’t get fixed correctly the first time, customers end up in a vortex without an anchor point. They feel they have nowhere to turn.
“And if there was no-one responsible for the outcome in the first place, there’s definitely no-one responsible for fixing the problems.”
This was certainly what Yvonne Arnall found when she tried to get her telephone connection sorted. She wasn’t expecting any special treatment from the telco. Despite the fact she had been a customer for more than 50 years.
But nor did she anticipate a saga that would drag on for almost six months. And involve her driving thousands of kilometres on multiple occasions for appointments that never eventuated.
When she lodged a formal complaint with the company, asking for compensation for seven no-shows and the inappropriate behaviour of the technician who finally showed, only to leave urine all over her bathroom floor, she was given the runaround once more.
"They just weren’t responding to me,” she says. “One girl I spoke to on the phone, she had my letter on the system and she told me she was reading it and she said her manager would get back to me that afternoon.
“Well, I waited a week and when I rang again, they had lost the letter, it wasn’t on the system anymore! So then I had to get it back on the system to open the complaint again.”
Well handled complaints are good for customers and businesses
Like Leigh, Yvonne was determined not to let her complaint slide, and turned to HMC for assistance. But many simply give up.
The Australian Consumer Survey found that more than a quarter of customer complaints remained unresolved. And many of those cases were situations where the consumer believed further action would require too much effort or where the business had not cooperated.
“The longer you go without a response, the more frustrated you get and the more likely you are to give up,” Jo says.
“HMC is all about simplifying the complaints process. We put the utmost importance on making sure you feel heard every step of the way.”
By acting as a conduit, HMC also takes the heat out of the situation. We help resolve the issue in a timely manner and ensure the customer is less likely to walk away from the business entirely.
“We bring customers together with those in charge of delivering customer service. The customer feels heard and is more likely to stay with that business,” Jo says.
“It is important not just for consumers to be heard — it’s also important for companies to listen. The cost of acquiring a new customer is much higher than looking after existing ones. Good customer service is also good for the bottom line.”
----- If you’re not being heard, we can help. Lodge your complaint with Handle My Complaint and we’ll ensure your issue gets to the right people.