Are you a complainer, criticizer or just apathetic?

locations-reviewsIf you’ve ever been to a national retailer, coffee shop, restaurant or just about anywhere customer service is provided, you’ve probably been asked to give feedback. Some cashier or waiter most likely circled a number or web address on your receipt and asked you to give feedback. So, have you ever done it? The most probable answer is no. If people gave feedback regularly, companies wouldn’t give away discounts and run contests just to get feedback.

So, the question is Why? Why don’t we give feedback more often; and why do we ignore feedback requests? As someone who operates a cleaning service in and around Manhattan New York, feedback is somewhat of a passion of mine. And despite the title of this post, we find that clients generally give good feedback when you can get them to give any feedback at all.  So, I find myself asking why, and trying root out what might prevent someone telling us how we’re doing.

When I opened MaidPro of Manhattan 10 years ago, I honestly thought we’d get to much feedback. Since we are cleaning homes when no one was around, it made sense to me that clients would come home and start inspecting every nook and cranny. then they would immediately tell us how we could have done better. But that’s not what happened. Instead, near silence. Unless they were used to bad service from other companies and were suddenly surprised by the results, clients just didn’t want to say anything. Almost as if, they were apathetic to the whole experience and didn’t expect us to care if we had done a good or bad job. So, we started sending emails and calling everybody after every cleaning. I wanted to know how we were doing, but I also wanted to know why getting feedback was so difficult.

I learned a couple of things through this process. First was that people didn’t want to complain about the cleaning and make it seem like they were criticizing every little thing. Second was that clients knew or mostly felt that cleaning for a living isn’t an easy job and they didn’t want to make it more difficult for their cleaning pro. They didn’t want to seem mean. The result of this behavior was the third thing I learned. Clients would become apathetic about the quality of service they were receiving and focus more on convenience and reliability than actual quality. They expected a generally clean home. They just didn’t expect it to get any better than that. Obviously, this is problematic for the service industry, but I’ll get in to that in a moment.

Though I’ve managed a cleaning service for the last 10 years, I’ve been in customer service for over 25 years. In general I find that customers are very nice and don’t want to say bad things about other people. So, when they are unhappy, they shop somewhere else or make a return using a false reason, like it was too expensive, I just changed my mind or I don’t need it anymore.

As consumers, we should try to give real feedback and to do it often. When we wait until something upsets us before we address it, that something becomes much more difficult to resolve. Here’s an example. Joe just signed up for cleaning service twice a month with company A. His first clean was okay, but it could have been better. There were a couple of areas he had hoped would be cleaned, which weren’t. Since Joe is a nice guy, he doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble and doesn’t provide feedback. Joe doesn’t want to lie and say it was great and he doesn’t want to complain. Instead, he waits for the next cleaning, saying to himself “They’ll probably get that next time.” I’m sure you can guess what happens next time. The same places are missed. Could the cleaner have done a better job? Probably. It is unlikely, however, that the maid look around at Joe’s home and said to themselves, “let’s skip that spot over there.” Just like Joe is a nice guy, his cleaner is a good person who honestly wants to make Joe happy with their work. The disconnect is communication. Something during the cleaning is causing that area to be missed. It could be how it’s cleaned. It could be the order in which the room is cleaned. There could be some distraction, like a pet. Whatever the reason, it can’t be resolved if it is never identified. Without feedback, problems will persist. And waiting for problems to persist before providing feedback, makes fixing the problem more difficult.

When you take the time to provide honest feedback, and do it regularly, you are clearly communicating your expectations. Which makes it easier for others to meet those expectations or explain why they may be unable to. This can open the door to compromise and a lasting relationship you can build on.

So, whether someone is a complainer or a criticizer has nothing to do with their feedback and more to do with how long it takes them to provide it. Clearly communicating expectations is not criticism. It’s a good policy and habit to practice. The only thing we should worry about becoming apathetic or unhappy because we thought not giving feedback was kinder than being honest.

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