Complaining is good - and Apple have proved it

Last month Apple settled a class-action lawsuit in America, relating to ongoing problems with its popular iPhone 4.

Owners of the phone had reported poor antenna performance, which Apple initially put down to a software glitch. But now, thanks to the large lawsuit, customers are now entitled to a free case, which should solve the reception problems, or a $15 refund.

The story might not sound important (particularly to those who don’t have an iPhone) – but it highlights a key consideration for both businesses and consumers. Sometimes, it pays to complain.

When should I complain?

There is a sense that Brits are reticent to complain, for fear of ‘causing a scene’. But as a business owner, you need to be certain that you are getting the services that you pay for – and this might involve making your feelings known to your suppliers.

If you are concerned that you are not getting what you signed up for, or if you are unhappy with the level of service you are receiving, don’t ignore the problem. Instead, speak to your supplier and explain your concerns. The supplier will almost certainly be keen to hold onto your business, and to keep your relationship as positive as possible. You will therefore often find that complaining leads to a quick solution.

If you don’t immediately get an answer, don’t give up. Particularly in large companies (and particularly in banks), the cogs of bureaucracy tend to move slowly. Stick to your guns, and remember that perseverance often pays dividends.

What about switching suppliers?

As a last resort you should also consider switching suppliers. In such a difficult economic climate, many suppliers are willing to offer good deals to lure potential customers away from their competitors, and you can use this to your advantage.

At the very least you should shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible deal on your utilities. Overheads of this sort can represent a significant outlay for many businesses – but many never bother looking at alternatives.

You might also consider approaching your existing suppliers and telling them that you are thinking about moving. Explain that you are looking to reduce your costs, and ask whether or not they could do you a better price. This can be an efficient way of bringing down your costs without having the hassle of actually switching suppliers.

What if I receive a complaint?

Of course, there is another side to this coin, and it is often less pleasant. If you are on the receiving end of a complaint, it is important that you handle it properly. While being complained about might not be pleasant, it does provide businesses with an important opportunity to forge relationships with customers. At the same time, though, a poorly handled complaint can destroy a customer relationship altogether.

Sensitive handling of complaints is therefore an important skill for any business owner – and indeed for any customer-facing member of staff. Read more about handling complaints.

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