THERE’S a great Paddy Power ad on TV at the moment where the guy answers a green phone with the utterance: ‘Complaints?’. The woman on the other end goes on about the rabble getting the same deal as the Hoi Poloi. Hilarious. Can you imagine if every company had a division called Complaints? I suppose you could call it “after sales service” or “support” but I really like Complaints because it gets to the nub of the issue.
We Irish are renowned for not complaining. How is your meal, sir? Eh, fine, grand altogether thanks, very good. And when the waiter turns his back we are, like, that’s the most disgusting fish and chips I have ever eaten in my life, never coming here again! Straight onto booking.com with a rip of a review.
Therein is the problem for businesses. If a customer doesn’t like your product or service, the worst thing that can happen is they don’t tell you.
They tell everyone else, and you don’t know it. Why is business so quiet? Spend more on advertising? No. Get your customers to talk to you.
Knowledge about what your customers really think is hard to come by. I used to be in the plumbing supply business and there was no problem knowing when there was a problem – there was a leak and everyone wanted you to know.
However, with lots of products, like meals, travel, mobiles, software, supermarkets even, your customers may simply give up using your products and never tell you.
The usual method of collecting market intelligence is through surveys.
I believe these to be a very random method indeed and are very dependent on the questions asked, which often are not relevant to the customer. I have never been stopped in any purchasing situation and simply asked was I happy with my experience while on the premises, or with the product I bought.
It appears to me that most companies simply don’t want to know. It is too difficult to accept or analyse the problems customers have.
Complaints, anyone? Send a letter to The Editor, C/o ... !
Owen O’Brien is a lecturer and entrepreneur in residence at The School of Economics, UCC. www.owenobrien.com