A few years back I wanted to send my wife flowers on Valentine’s Day. In fact, the message on the flowers would kick off a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt which would lead my wife to me at our favorite restaurant. However, when Valentine’s Day arrived, the flowers I ordered were never delivered. Worst yet, because the flowers kicked off the scavenger hunt, my wife was left wondering where I was on Valentine’s Day!
Needless to say, the evening didn’t go as planned. We eventually reconnected at the restaurant. As we had a laugh and a few drinks over the hunt that never was, I was already planning my complaint to the florist. What happened next was astonishing...
I called the florist to plea my complaint. When I got through to a customer service agent, I jumped into my tirade. It was a compelling retelling of how my Valentine’s Day went awry and how they completely screwed everything up. As I told the story I could feel my emotions getting heated, my voice being raised, and my accusations becoming more pointed. At the crescendo of my complaint, the customer service agent said, “I’m so sorry about your flowers not being delivered and I want to help make this right. What would you like me to do for you?”
I was taken off guard by, “What would you like me to do for you?” I was so unprepared and befuddled by the question that all I could say was, “Make sure it never happens again!” And I hung up. That was it! I let them off the hook with an empty demand. It didn’t cost them a dime and it didn’t really fix my issue. That situation taught me a valuable lesson - proposals beat complaints every time.
The complaining part was easy. What I wasn’t prepared to do was ask for a remedy that was worthy of my complaint. In hindsight, I could have asked for a refund, a future discount, more flowers, reimbursement of our dinner, and a variety of other restitutions that would have helped make up for the undelivered flowers. But I wasn’t prepared to make the ask.
The only way you’ll be able to get what you feel will make things right is to make a proposal. The odds of you getting what you ask for increase dramatically if it meets the following criteria:
- Specific. Vaugeries only lead to flexibility that can be used to avoid giving you what you want.
- Realistic. Asking for a $1.0M to a $1 problem may only lead to laughter, so make it realistic.
- Easily Done. While I could have asked to have had my dinner paid for, it would have been difficult for the florist to do but free flowers is much easier for them to fulfill.
So the next time Cupid wrongs you, spend less time preparing your complaint and more time preparing your ask.