Culture Power: Whine, moan and complain - then contribute! (Ron Kaufman)

March 2001

by Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC

Every month I receive messages like this: "Ron, you must hear about the terrible service I received from..." These messages often close "...and I'll never go back there again!"

I find these stories upsetting, occasionally entertaining, but rarely motivating or instructive. Here's why:

Anyone with the intelligence and emotion to muster a written complaint also has the ability to offer a constructive solution. Griping about what went wrong is only half the puzzle; getting things improved is the more important part.

If you are upset with a vendor, supplier, colleague or family member, you have some expectations unmet, some needs ignored or some preferences overlooked. Your point of view is unique. Your understanding may be useful. Your requests and recommendations could make all the difference.

Unless you enjoy complaining for its own sake, follow these five simple steps to help everyone improve.

"How to Complain for Action":

  1. State your original understanding, including the promise you heard and the standards you expected.

  2. Identify the flaw, gap or oversight you experienced.

  3. Explain the consequences you have suffered: costs, anxiety, impact.

  4. Request specific remedial action and/or compensation.

  5. Make a suggestion for improvement. Help the other party do a better job.

Key Learning Point: You have the right to complain. You also have a responsibility to contribute.

Action Step: The next you time "give someone a piece of your mind", make that piece constructive.

Copyright, 2001, Ron Kaufman.

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed innovator and motivator for partnerships and quality service, and the author of the best-selling book, "UP Your Service!"

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March 2001