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Welcome to another episode of Monday Night Live, hosted by Derek Arden. This engaging podcast features uncut interviews with influential figures from around the globe. In this episode, Derek interviews Janelle Barlow, an accomplished professional speaker, author, and expert in complaint management. Join us as we delve into Janelle’s fascinating journey and her insights on the importance of handling complaints and the art of negotiation.

Meet Janelle Barlow

Janelle Barlow, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a renowned author and speaker with a PhD. She has dedicated her career to understanding and improving how businesses handle complaints. Janelle’s seminal work, “A Complaint is a Gift,” revolutionized the field when it was first published in the late 1980s and is now in its third edition. Her latest book, “Listen to Learn or Lose,” focuses on guiding managers in effective complaint handling.

Journey Across the United States

Janelle’s journey began in South Dakota, a place she felt compelled to leave from a young age due to its conservative and small-town nature. Her academic pursuits took her to the University of Pittsburgh, and then to the prestigious University of California, Berkeley. Despite facing initial intimidation from her Ivy League peers, Janelle thrived and eventually transitioned from academia to entrepreneurship, establishing herself as a thought leader in complaint management.

A Global Perspective

Janelle’s global experiences, including three years in Taiwan, significantly shaped her worldview. Living in Taiwan during a time of rapid modernization, she witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes in the country. These experiences enriched her understanding of global business practices and customer service expectations.

The Economics of Complaints

One of Janelle’s key insights is the economic impact of unaddressed complaints. In the United States, it’s estimated that businesses lose over a trillion dollars annually due to poor complaint handling. In the UK, this figure stands at 174 billion pounds. Despite these staggering numbers, many businesses remain unaware of the extent of their losses or how to address them effectively.

Complaints and Negotiations: The Connection

Derek Arden, an expert in negotiation, draws parallels between complaint handling and negotiation. Both require a nuanced understanding of human behavior and a strategic approach to communication. Janelle agrees, emphasizing that handling complaints effectively is akin to negotiating a positive outcome. When customers complain, they are essentially negotiating for better service or product quality.

Cultural Nuances in Complaining

Cultural attitudes towards complaining vary significantly. While Americans may complain more openly, cultural teachings like “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” still influence behavior. Janelle notes that many complaints are disguised as questions, which businesses often fail to recognize and address properly.

Gender Differences in Complaining

There’s a common misconception that women complain more than men. However, Janelle’s research suggests that men tend to complain more frequently, possibly due to societal positions of ownership and entitlement. Women, on the other hand, are often labeled negatively for complaining, which can discourage them from voicing their concerns.

Effective Complaint Handling

Janelle emphasizes the importance of framing complaints positively. Starting with a compliment or acknowledging the company’s strengths can make businesses more receptive to feedback. This approach not only addresses the issue at hand but also fosters a constructive dialogue. In negotiation terms, this is akin to building rapport and setting a positive tone for discussions.

The Role of Complaints in Business Improvement

Effective complaint handling is crucial for business success. Addressing complaints promptly and positively can enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction. Janelle’s work highlights that businesses should view complaints as opportunities for improvement rather than nuisances to be avoided. Just as in negotiations, the goal is to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

American Politics and Divisiveness

Towards the end of the interview, Derek and Janelle touch upon the current state of American politics. Janelle notes the deep divisions within the country and the challenges of having constructive political discussions. She draws parallels to the UK’s experience with Brexit, emphasizing the importance of understanding and respecting differing viewpoints.

Final Thoughts

Janelle Barlow’s insights on complaint management and negotiation are invaluable for businesses aiming to improve customer relations and retain loyalty. Her emphasis on the economic impact of complaints and the need for a positive approach to handling them provides a clear roadmap for success. Understanding the link between complaints and negotiation can transform how businesses approach customer feedback.

For those interested in learning more, Janelle offers an overview of the 12 best practices in complaint handling. This resource is available by contacting her directly or through Derek Arden’s newsletter.

Thank you for joining us on Monday Night Live. Stay tuned for more insightful interviews with movers and shakers from around the world.

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