Many reader complaints I receive are the result of poor customer service. Forbes reports it costs businesses $75 billion a year.

The main issues? Feeling unappreciated, dealing with rude and unhelpful employees, and — here’s the topic for this column –“not being able to speak to a person who can provide them the answers they’re looking for.”

That’s what happened to Rosemary Flynn. The 71-year-old Englewood resident was frustrated because installation delays by a local company cost her hundreds of dollars in lost rebates.

But no one she spoke with was providing the answers.

“The accounts person had been awful and humiliating to deal with from day one,” Rosemary wrote me. “I called the salesman and he was nice and said he would try to help the situation and that went nowhere as well.”

Rosemary was talking to the wrong people. So I gave her the names of the company’s owners and suggested she respectfully re-direct her self-advocacy to them.

How did I find them? Simple. I did a search for the company with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. Besides the valuable contact information, I also noticed the company was a BBB “Accredited Business.” If I had to get involved, I knew I’d have a better chance of resolving Rosemary’s problem.

That’s because an Accredited Business in the U.S. or Canada must meet BBB standards, which includes promptly responding to all complaints forwarded by BBB. In addition, it has to make a good faith effort to resolve disputes directly with the complainant, which can include complying with the outcome of any mediation or arbitration resolutions.

The good news? Rosemary tells me she reached the owners, repeating her story. She said they were “terrific,” and received a check shortly thereafter for more than the lost rebates. Had she been unsuccessful, she could have filed a BBB complaint.

The BBB notes the majority of non-accredited businesses cooperate by responding to complaints. However, it emphasizes cooperation by non-accredited businesses is strictly voluntary.

Only accredited businesses make a commitment to respond to BBB complaints. While there’s no guarantee that an Accredited Business will honor its resolution promises, those with less than a “B” grade lose their accreditation status.

“Businesses are under no obligation to seek BBB accreditation, and some businesses are not accredited because they have not sought BBB accreditation,” explains the BBB. Accepted applicants pay an annual fee based on company size.

However, the BBB makes clear that accreditation doesn’t mean that the business’s products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB.

The takeaway here? Try to communicate your concern to someone who’s actually in a position to DO something.

Besides BBB contact information, national consumer advocate Christopher Elliott posts the names, and contact information of senior executives responsible for customer service at major companies on his Elliott Advocacy website at www.elliott.org. Make sure you can document who you’ve contacted prior to reaching out to these senior customer service personnel.

Regardless of who you contact, there’s no incentive for any business or company to work with you in resolving a complaint if you’ve already disparaged it on social media, threatened legal action, or vow you’ll never do business with them again.

Instead, take a positive attitude. Provide the company or business legitimate, timely, and detailed complaint information. That includes documentation of all outgoing and incoming emails and mail correspondence as well as dates, times and names of everyone with whom you’ve spoken.

Finally, make a fair and reasonable resolution request to someone who’s in a position to help. Hopefully, the information in this column has aided in that effort.

If all that fails, you know how to reach me.

David Morris is the Sun’s consumer advocate. Contact him c/o the Sun, 23170 Harborview Road, Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980; email dmorris@sun-herald.com; or leave a message at 941-206-1114.

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