In the past I wouldn’t have thought of effective complaining as a relationship-building tool. That changed when reading The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Your Self-Esteem by Guy Winch, Ph.D. Winch says that although we are chronic complainers, our complaints are seldom addressed. In fact we vent and grumble without expecting or getting results. However, knowing how to effectively complain can get problems resolved and, in the process, improve relationships, enhance self-esteem, and encourage beneficial change.
Here are a few of Winch’s ideas to make sure complaints get results:
• Complain to a person who can resolve the problem or offer a remedy. When we vent our frustrations to family, friends, and colleagues – rather than a person empowered to resolve the complaint – we may get emotional validation but not a resolution of the problem.
• Keep the conversational tone measured if the complaint is to succeed. Anger never makes a complaint more effective. Instead anger, sarcasm, condescension, and name-calling – however justified – deflect attention away from the content of the complaint and create defensiveness.
And if you happen to be on the receiving end of a complaint, use the opportunity to resolve the complaint and build client loyalty using an 8-step process.
1. Sincerely thank the individual for making you aware of the problem.
2. Explain why receiving the feedback is appreciated.
3. Apologize for the problem or mistake.
4. Take responsibility for the problem and promise to handle it immediately.
5. Ask for necessary details and information.
6. Correct the problem promptly or within the promised timeframe.
7. Follow-up with an e-mail or phone call to determine the level of satisfaction with the complaint handling.
8. Implement system changes or change procedures, if necessary, to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
For more ideas on this topic, consider Winch’s compelling book: Winch, Guy. The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Your Self-Esteem. First edition. New York, NY; Walker and Company; 2011.