Complaint Resolution and Lack of Ownership

Posted on Monday, August 15, 2011


An interesting incident happened today. For one of the festivals my wife had bought chocolate muffins for her niece and nephew. As it tuned out, even though the salesman claimed them to be fresh, they were fungus ridden. We came to know about their state once her niece opened the box to relish her favorite food and was of course, disappointed.

So, we go to this shop today to let him know what transpired. The reason was multi-fold. One, I was expecting an apology. Second, a refund or a fresh set of muffins would have helped and third, I wanted them to know that if you pass off your unsold, old baked goods like this then there are people who would complain.

To my surprise, ok partly my fault as well since I should have anticipated this part, the salesman was indifferent to our complaint. According to him, there are huge quantities of muffin boxes lying during the festive season and it is hard for him to tell which one is good and which one is old. He also mentioned that it is natural for muffins to have fungus after 2-3 days given the tropical weather and the rains acting as a catalyst. Ok, so what next. Nothing! To me it sounded like fuck off, I have more work to do, though the tone was salesman like. I asked him where the owner of the shop is and he kind of smiled when he said that the owner does not come to the shop.

Though I vowed never to buy a thing from that shop again, but it taught me a couple of things.

1) Complaint resolution is heavily dependent on the ownership that you have with the process. This salesman had made the sale. His part was done. He did not want to own the consequences and hence this situation.
2) It is also strongly dependent on the actual stakeholders. In the current scenario, the main stakeholder was least interested in coming to the bakery. What does this tell the employees of the bakery? Do what you want who cares? If the owner does not then who am I to care.

If you own a setup, you have to make sure that you make your team/ employees/ fellow stakeholders understand that. If you slack, so would they, unless of course you have some genuinely good people. Even if you are not visiting the shop make sure that the complaints have some way of visiting you. This lack of ownership at the process and at the organization level leaves complaint resolution like a helpless victim crying for attention.

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