Just a tiny bit of housekeeping before I get started. I have made an Operation Baldy ticker, it’s over there on the right. As you can see I’m up to $270 already!! Woot! Thank you again to those who have donated, and if you can help me to raise $1000 for the Australian Cancer Council, it would be most appreciated. Plus you get to see me shave my head bald as an egg!
Now, I think it’s time we did some more work on getting our message across to those plus-size retail chains again, don’t you?
One of the most effective ways I’ve had of communicating with a lot of businesses, not just plus-size retail chains, is through writing to them via email (and snail mail too). Many businesses have KPI’s (key performance indicators) that set a time frame around responding to written customer contact. For example, they may set an initial contact within 1 working day, and then a follow up, more detailed contact within 5 working days. Particularly when they are complaints and there is something to be resolved. They may also have a formula for changing their business practices on the strength of the number of requests they get on a certain issue. For example, one business I used to work for believed that for every letter they got asking for a change in their business practices, there were a hundred other people who also wanted the same change, but didn’t write to them for whatever reason. Then if they got 10 written contact items, they considered that a thousand people wanted something changed, then it was worth the time and effort to do so.
So, how to approach them? I have been writing feedback letters since I was a teenager, and I’ve learnt the hard way what not to do! I’m not going to share how many times I’ve either pissed the business off or made an idiot of myself… it’s too embarrassing!
What I have learnt are the following rules.
- Be polite. Ranting, swearing, calling them names and being nasty is not going to get you anywhere.
- Be clear. Tell them exactly what it is you you are not happy with. It’s no use saying you’re not happy and that you’re upset and so on without stating very clearly why.
- Be respectful. Remember that it’s somebody’s job to deal with your complaints, and if you’re going to treat them like dirt, they’re not going to be interested in helping you.
- Give clear examples. If it’s a product you are finding fault with, tell them the exact product. If it is service, tell them as much as you know about the person who gave you bad service. Go back to Rules 1 and 3, don’t call the person names, or swear about them. If you know their name, say so. If not, give the time and date it happened, the name of the store or branch, and respectful detail. Do not say “that dumb blonde”, say “the staff member I spoke to was a blonde woman, wearing a green top.”
- Don’t be greedy. Ask them to repair or replace an item, or refund your money, but demanding extra free stuff is rude and greedy.
- Tell them you will come back to them if they improve the issue you are complaining about. Why would they bother helping someone they think they’ve totally lost as a customer?
- Mention word-of-mouth if you have talked to someone about their product/service. Word-of-mouth is very, very important to businesses.
- Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but please, make it at least make sense. Use a spell check function if you have to. Ask someone else to read it if you’re feeling a bit unsure.
- Very important rule this one…. Praise them… and do it with honesty. You don’t have to get all “You’re awesome and I love you!” just praise something about the store/staff/product you like. Don’t make it up, if it’s not genuine, don’t worry about it. For example, you might say “I have always found your staff friendly and helpful, but I am really disappointed with the products you are currently offering.”
- At the end of your email/letter, thank them for their time, and say “I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.”
- Give proper contact details so that they can respond to you. You wouldn’t believe the number of complaints that have to go unanswered because the sender hasn’t given their contact details clearly.
There you have it. Basically, those are things that have got me through to a lot of businesses. Not all of them really listen (Unilever, you suck!) but many of them do, and many will try to resolve the issue for you.
Now, how about I put one together as an example, and then if you want to use any bits of it, you are more than welcome to.
I’m going to focus on Target Australia with this one. Mostly because I am really unhappy with how they shove their plus-size range down the back of the store like they are ashamed of their plus-sized customers! Or are ashamed of the stock. Either way, we deserve better than that. So let’s see…
Dear Target Australia,
I am writing to you today to tell you how disappointed I am with the way your plus-size clothing range is laid out in your stores. I am a frequent customer of the Myer Centre Target store, and I have noticed over the years that I have been shopping in your store that the plus-size clothing section has been worked further and further back in your store, to the point that it is now in the far back corner next to the fire exit, fitting room and employee access. When I am in the suburbs, which is fairly frequently due to my work, I usually pop into the Target store for a look around, and I noticed that pushing the plus-size clothing to a back corner of the store seems to be the norm for all of your stores.
This makes me feel that you do not want either me, or the product you expect me to purchase, to be seen by anyone else in your store. It means that when I once would have felt welcome and comfortable shopping in your store, I now feel like I am only catered for because you feel you have to, and that you don’t care what I, as a plus-sized woman who enjoys shopping for clothing, needs or feels when it comes to shopping in your store.
I understand the need to work the layout to fit things in to maximise your customer’s spending, but does this have to be done at the expense of one group of customers? Could you not perhaps put shoes, or general accessories in this space, where everyone equally is affected, not just your plus-sized customers?
At the front of your stores, there is a statement that reads:
Every Australian has the right to look good and feel good about the way they dress and live. At Target, we aim to make this achievable with stylish, fashionable clothing and homewares accessible to everyone.
Recently I wrote to you about the lack of plus-size options in your stores these days, and I feel the way that the plus-sized clothing is pushed to the back of the store in an unattractive location, and not displayed with the same styling and finesse as the straight sized clothing contradicts your statement that is clear for all to read as they enter your store. Add to this the news that you are considering offering your Hot Options range to only a size 22, it makes me feel that as a Size 22 to 26 woman, you are not very interested in my custom in your stores.
I was actually shown the statement above by a friend of mine who I had mentioned the location of plus-size clothing to, when he snapped a picture of the sign in front of your store and sent it to me to ask if I had seen it.
I want to continue to shop at Target, your prices are very good, the service consistently polite and friendly, and your stock is usually of a good quality. Value for money is really important to me, but so is being valued as a customer, regardless of my size or shape.
I hope that you will consider my complaint, and think about the message that you are sending to the customers you are catering to with your plus-sized clothing lines. As the average Australian woman is a size 14, it is not a small minority of customers, but a significant portion of the Australian population.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Of course I won’t sign it Fat Heffalump when I send it to Target!
A friend really did send me that picture of the statement outside one of their stores, if you wish to see it for yourself, click here.
I’ve actually just sent this one to Target Australia now. If you wish to contact them yourself, here is their contacts page. The feedback form is easy to use and they do respond.
Please feel free to use this letter to base your own on, but don’t send it exactly as I’ve written it, because businesses do disregard copied letters.
If you wish to contact other plus-size retail chains (including department/variety stores), here are a few links for you:
The most important advice I can give you is to take the time and contact them. Unless you do, they don’t know that you’re not happy with what they offer. And unless we all do, they don’t know how many of us are unhappy with what they offer.
I am also working on a comprehensive plus-size consumer survey (not one that is loaded to answer direct questions, but gives broad feedback) and more campaigns to communicate to plus-size retail chains of the level of service and product we want.
Until then, please feel free to join the Facebook group and offer suggestions and ask questions that we can collectively answer.
And if you’ve had any success stories with contacting companies with complains, please share in the comments below!