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Friday, 13 January 2012

A friend and I were discussing about brands we trust and customer touchpoints when I realized how many complaint letters I've sent last month. 

Writing these letters is never a fun activity (I think I write much better when I'm happy). Nevertheless, I hope more people would write such letters not for lack of patience or understanding.  I think it's quite the opposite. Compared to sweeping a bad experience under the rug or blowing one's fuse, it takes considerably more effort to write letters that are objective and constructive. When I wrote my first complaint letter (for lack of a better term) to an airline company years ago, I was ambivalent, but in the end, I found the experience to be quite cathartic. Oh, it was an amazing exercise to improve writing and diplomacy skills too!

If the brands/organizations/staff in question are certified professionals in their field, they will take customer's letters seriously to help them improve their organizational standards/performance, yes?

A few days ago, I wrote a letter to the head office of the bank that holds my payroll account. When I visited this branch for some basic transactions, the agent and the manager gave me wrong forms to sign, made me wait for 45 minutes (practically eating up my whole lunch break!), and charged me exorbitant fees for my SOA request without providing prior information. This is also the same bank with an ATM that is more offline than online, agents that call twice (or thrice even) offering the same product you’ve already said no to, and unprofessional security guards. It’s a big mystery to me how they won the best bank award a few years ago.

Anyway, instead of ‘losing it’ inside the bank, I just decided to write an account of the bad experience. Within eight hours of sending the e-mail, I already got a call from my branch regarding my complaint. They were still very arrogant, to be honest, and up to the last minute, the staff who handled my account was attempting to make excuses. Nevertheless, I was happy that they took note of my grievance.

My former boss, a former corporate communications officer, said that writing a formal letter really is the way to go. Apparently, banks get points for their performance.  If a branch consistently provides subpar service, it’s only a matter time before they get sanctioned by internal management, or even by the QA arm of the Central Bank. Hmmm. 

Another letter I filed was for a credit card company whose agent basically force-fed me with their product. This bank sent me a pre-approved card which I didn’t use for a variety of reasons---unexciting perks, dismal credit limit, dull design, among other things. I immediately called the bank to ask them to cancel the card.  Two months after, I got a SOA which shows that I owed the bank some P 3,000 in annual fee charges and interest. I wrote a letter about this and while it took their agent 28 days to reply (outrageous!), at least I have everything written down if they come running after me.

I don’t think complaint letters are meant to be entirely negative. As much as possible, I try to give credit where it is due. For instance, I just applied for the installation of a phone line/internet connection with this telephone company for my new place. I’m hardly ever home so I had to make special arrangements with my Mom to attend to them, only to find out that someone from their office incorrectly encoded the address I provided them. In short, on the day that the dispatch was supposed to install my line, there was a lot of hassle, but still no connection. Good thing their customer service was quick. Within a day of sending my complaint, I got a call to reschedule. I immediately commended them for this quick response, to be fair, and officially sent a letter about this too.

But guess what? As I type this entry, they should have arrived two hours ago to install the line. I have a wedding, debut and a million other errands to attend to, but they're still not here.


Guess I’m gonna have to revoke that commendation! :s

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