No-complaints Kiwis get poor customer service
Ask Kiwis for examples of complaints and you get very few reports.
One woman remembers one instance of having complained. Her husband had ordered gin and tonics made with an expensive gin they wanted to try.
‘‘He told me they’d used Schweppes tonic after we already drank them and were charged $11 each. Cheap tonic better suited to cheap gin. I emailed to complain and they sent a $40 voucher.’’
Another woman is having a new dining table replaced – slowly – because it arrived with a crack down one side. She wanted a discount instead but was told that was not possible.
Compare that with a British man who made headlines this week, claiming that he made an extra $1800 a year by complaining about bad service in restaurants, bars and shops. He told The Sun he made the most money complaining about bad, cold or late food and poor service.
Experts say New Zealanders are not generally very good at grumbling – and we may be suffering because of it.
Bodo Lang, head of the marketing department at the University of Auckland, said New Zealand businesses got away with ‘‘half-hearted service’’ because of the Kiwi reluctance to make a fuss.
Lang is German and said he had noticed a cultural difference when he arrived here.
‘‘One of my observations here is that people do not complain. I don’t think it’s that they don’t know how – they do – but they don’t want to. There’s a bit of Victorianness in the New Zealand psyche. They don’t want to grumble.’’
Businesses could offer substandard service because of that, he said. ‘‘Eventually those customers vote with their feet and don’t come back but places don’t find out why.’’
Complaints could be good for a business because it gave them the feedback necessary to improve their offering, he said. ‘‘Otherwise they start losing market share and sales and they don’t know why.’’
Jessica Wilson, head of research at Consumer NZ, said getting a problem dealt with often depended on how confident the consumer was in standing up for their rights.
A Consumer NZ survey showed one in five New Zealanders were not confident about what their rights were under consumer law.
Research from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s national consumer survey showed that two-thirds of consumers who had problems took steps to reach a resolution.
Only just over half of consumers aged 18 to 26 took any action. Those who did not said they were not sure what to do and not confident there would be a resolution.
Of those who raised a problem, three-quarters were able to resolve it and one in three found a solution on their first try.
But only one in five said it was very easy to resolve the issue.
Wilson said it seemed many New Zealand businesses did not have a good understanding of their obligations under consumer law and were not good at dealing with complaints.
Lang said that was particularly true for small to medium-sized businesses. ‘‘People who run them don’t have the marketing brain or a customer-centric view of the organisation so they see them as a nuisance and brush them off.’’