By Zain Ameen
About two weeks ago, I tweeted a complaint about the stench of the garbage bins scattered all over the streets of Jeddah. These bins are also the source of flies and insects and also provide food for rodents and cats. I asked the municipality to close the bins so as to prevent them from emitting odors and giving a home to numbers of insects and small animals.
My friend, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Suweigh, liked the tweet. He generously wrote a supportive article in his column in Al-Madinah newspaper. He explained the problem in detail so that the message might reach the responsible parties clearly with both professionalism and deftness.
Two days ago, other colleagues called me to ask if a response, a reaction, a comment or even a word of thanks had come to us from the responsible parties. I told them that I personally had not received anything of that sort from any party who acknowledged the problem or promised to solve it.
Another colleague advised me not to give up hope because this is exactly the situation in all the responsible parties and companies. He said it was the very nature of the responsible parties and companies to ignore their customers’ complaints — perhaps deliberately, out of ignorance, or due to laziness.
To give me some solace, a third colleague narrated his own personal experience. He said his suitcase had been lost while traveling on an international flight to an international airport. He said he had carefully followed to the letter the normal procedure for recovery of baggage in such cases.
He said as there had seemed to be no point in following the normal steps in pursuing his case, he resorted to the telephone.
My friend said after tens of unanswered telephone calls, the company’s manager got back to him and told him that he had received news that the suitcase had been located but so far it had not been returned.
He said that since that time, he had been unable to reach the manager on the phone. “My voice never reached him again and I lost hope in the manager and in the normal procedures,” he said.
Many companies are not aware of the importance of reacting to their customers. They do not have an effective, easy or friendly system for interacting with them.
Many companies do not know that the customer has a number of means and methods of getting his complaint to the company and to the people who should deal with it.
The customer can of course easily defame the company through social media, e-mails and other such means. He may be obliged to go this way when there is no reply or action taken in response to his problems.
My message to the leaders of companies and organizations is that they have many options when they receive complaints from their customers. They may ignore the complaint or admit that they and their staff are unable to do anything about it.
They can also inform the client that his complaint has been received and then keep mum — like the airline company did with my friend and his missing suitcase.
The ideal solution, however, would be to interact with the client and keep in contact with him until his problem is solved.
The company should also keep the client informed of every step taken so as to pacify him and give him confidence that his complaint is in good hands and will not be ignored. This should be done through a digital system for interaction with customers.
There should not be a long silence that will irritate the customer and cause him doubts and worries.
Going back to my complaint about the garbage bins, the responsible party in that case has chosen silence and neglect.
The world is changing and customers are becoming a greater power who can obtain their rights by various means and methods. Companies have no other option but to develop their systems in order to positively interact with complaints and issues from their customers.