Jacqueline Drew: Memo to Canadian consumers: Complain more!

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
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The Canadian: Mild, Polite, Unassuming, Gentle. The Canadian doesn't like to hurt anyone. The Canadian doesn't grandstand. The Canadian doesn't yell and scream and cause a fuss. Which is just perfect when nothing is going wrong. But what happens when someone steps on the Canadian, abuses the Canadian, and then bills them for it?

I'll give you an example. My husband and I were at a restaurant recently, and our server had some kind of an awful mood going on. She ignored us the whole evening, asked to take our plates when we still lifting the food on our forks, pushed us to pay before we were ready to leave, and then treated us like criminals by counting all the money at the table right in front of us to make sure it was all there! What's a polite Canadian to do? You know, besides apologizing and wondering, "is it something I did?"

I say, stand up and complain. Here's why:

Polite, silent dissatisfaction kills businesses. If we didn't complain, we surely would express our unhappiness by never returning. And if everyone who is unhappy does that, it starts a bleeding of customers in a business that can quickly drive it into bankruptcy before it even knows what hit it.

Second, research shows that unhappy customers will tell an average of 10 people about their bad experiences. By complaining and resolving the issue, you have a chance of forgiving the business and releasing your desire to diss the business to all your friends. In our case, the owner resolved it well, and we fully intend to give the place another try.

Finally, if we as Canadians don't learn to complain, the businesses serving us will have low standards of service, won't learn to correct their mistakes, and won't be able to compete globally. For example, I think most Canadians would agree that Americans know how to speak up, and Americans also know how to service their customers - which is no accident. Given the Canadian dollar, and the prevalence of cross-border shopping, as a business I'd much rather get a good complaint than see my business go south.

But given the kind, sweet nature of most Canadians: I think I'll put it this way: Complaining: It's the kindest thing you can do!

For the Business Network, I'm Jacqueline Drew in Calgary.