No-com­plaints Ki­wis get poor cus­tomer ser­vice

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Air New Zealand is mark­ing the royal wed­ding of Prince Harry and Amer­i­can ac­tress Meghan Markle with cus­tomers who share the same wed­ding date. Cus­tomers pre­sent­ing a mar­riage cer­tifi­cate showing they were mar­ried on May 19 of any year will be al­lowed to

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.’’

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