Recently, Jane Steele Moore spent time on the phone with a Toyota dealership. Staff there sold one of her clients a car three years ago, and now one of the airbags was faulty.
The dealer was refusing to pay for a replacement.
To get a fairer deal, she boned up on airbags by doing research and contacting Transport Canada. After considerable time negotiating, she got the car company to pay for the $500 airbag — her client had to shell out for labour.
“I was appalled, quite frankly, about this one,” says Steele Moore.
A typical tale for an expert in consumer complaints.
Steele Moore, 57, began her professional life studying early childhood education, where she learned a lot about human nature. But she soon started working in business.
She’s been in customer service; she’s also worked with the Royal Bank’s insurance division, trained people in call centres and done marketing.
For eight years, she worked as a freelance consultant. She enjoyed it, but kept thinking that customer complaints rarely got their due, and someone should do something about it. She knew consumers often got too emotionally involved in their service or product problems with a company, plus they rarely knew how the complaints process worked. The end result was often frustrating.
Nine moths ago, Steele Moore put her idea into practice. She launched Complaints Are Us in Toronto with a small staff, most of whom work at home.
She and her team — she calls them concierges, while she’s the chief complaints officer — tackle product or service complaints on behalf of clients. While Steele Moore won’t take on issues of a legal or medical nature, she’s overturned faulty credit ratings and got returns on defective mattresses, to name a few.
Potential clients start by filling out a three-page form outlining their problem and giving authorization for Complaints Are Us to deal with it. Once it’s faxed in or emailed, Steele Moore or one of her 25 concierges pick up the phone or start writing a letter to get action.
Staff constantly debrief each other on the process, and they’re always sharing tips on how to solve complaint problems and find the best person to talk to.
Talking with customer service reps trying to get rebates, exchanges and apologies, Steele Moore finds she’s drawing on a huge range of skills she’d picked up in her previous jobs. And learning a few new ones.
“I’m using more of my research and negotiating skills than I’ve used in the past,” she says. “I’m also doing a lot of problem solving, and finding new ways of looking at things.”