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Russell Crowe's Statement: Bad Customer Service

Russell Crowe's Statement: Blame Bad Customer Service

Frustrated by a clerk's unwillingness to help him put through a phone call to his family in Australia, Russell Crowe was involved in a minor altercation at the Mercer Hotel. After asking the front desk several times to replace a faulty phone in his room - and getting only attitude from the clerk on duty - Crowe brought the phone down to the front desk in an effort to address the situation in person. Words were exchanged and Crowe wound up throwing the phone against the wall.

Although there is not excuse for Mr Crows actions there is no doubt that this incident could have been diverted if the front desk followed a industry standard 'complaints etiquette' in what is now accepted as an essential component of quality management. It is also regarded as one of the components of competitiveness in domestic and international markets.

New Zealand and Australian companies are tackling complaints issues head on are spending a lot of money training their staff in the process of receiving complaints.

People are the single most important resource in the complaints handling process. It is important that staff are appropriately selected and provided with sufficient training and support to ensure that complaints are dealt with appropriately. without 'attitude'. Such training should form part of induction for new staff and be regularly reinforced and updated.

Implementing a complaints handling processes can be anything from documenting company policies and procedures, taking staff through tailored training and/or through the mystery shopping (a mystery shopper would pretend to make a complaint and then document how the sales assistant coped with the complaint).

Handling complaints over a period of time can cause stress. Therefore consideration should be given to include measures for stress minimization. In some circumstances rotating staff through complaints handling areas can develop management skills but also reduce the likelihood of stress.

It is important for staff handling complaints to have resources that will enable them to perform their duties efficiently and effectively. Adequate numbers of staff with sufficient delegated authority shall be available in the decision-making process.

Handling a difficult consumer and the consumer's complaint efficiently needs patience and skill to avoid an initial 'negative' situation becoming even more negative and degenerating into a dispute.


The steps are: (a) Identify yourself, listen, record details and determine what the complainant wants.

(b) Confirm the details received.

(c) Empathize with the complainant in a courteous manner.

(d) Explain the courses of action available.

(e) Do not attempt to lay blame or be defensive.

(f) Resolve the complaint if possible or commit to doing something immediately, irrespective of who will ultimately handle the complaint.

(g) Ensure that the consumer is informed the complaint is receiving attention, without creating false expectations.

(h) Check whether the consumer is satisfied with the proposed action and, if not, advise alternative courses of action.

(i) Provide acknowledgment; e.g. a thank-you letter, a telephone call.

(j) Follow up as appropriate and monitor to ensure the consumer remains satisfied as well as receives feedback.


In principle, this is the same as processing oral complaints, however, in this situation, a response should be given promptly, in writing.

The organization should develop policies on the provision of remedies which reflect what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances, legal obligations and good industry practice.

Such policies include-

(a) refunds;

(b) replacement;

(c) repair;

(d) substitutes;

(e) technical assistance;

(f) information;

(g) referral;

(h) financial assistance;

(i) other assistance;

(j) compensation;

(k) apology; and

(l) goodwill gift or token.

The special message to consumers is to not accept mediocrity. Speak up to get the service you deserve!

Organisations need to get closer to customer service issues and adopt various tools to assist staff who deal with complaints on a daily basis.

There are many reasons why dissatisfied customers don't complain including:

* Organisations make it too hard to complain

* It is considered a waste of time - 'nothing will be done anyway!'

* People are afraid of rudeness and retribution

Our advise to consumers is to make a point of rewarding good service with a comment to the provider's manager or by putting a compliment in writing. Conversely, if you are unhappy, say so clearly (in a calm manner) and be sure to follow through with complaints in writing to senior management or take the complaint further by going to the relevant ombudsman, the Australian or New Zealand Consumers Association or State Department of Fair Trading.

Good service should be a common right not a privilege for a lucky few. For more information contact:

Kelly Bowdler
National Councillor - Customer Service Institute of Australia
Director - CBS

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