Have you ever faced this situation?
- After buying a new appliance, it stopped working before the warranty period?
- You are promised a service in 24 hours but not heard back from the company for many days even after you paid them?
As a consumer, you and I face such situations often after which we try approaching the company to whom we paid money. The most painful part of this experience is to get the company to hear out your complaint. They make you wait for a long time on helpline call before you get to speak to the agent on the other end. The agent then takes down your details and promises a delivery date/time for resolution. But we don’t always get the issue resolved on time and we have to follow up with them to get our complaints resolved. In few cases we see that the company fails to respond to your complaint by citing technical glitches or simply not responding to your calls. In few other cases, you are told that your complaint has been forwarded to the technical department who will revert back to you. What happens after that is everybody’s experience and the reason for tension and high blood pressure in consumers.
As a consumer in India, what are the options which we have to deal with such behavior by companies? The most obvious answer is approach the consumer court to persuade the company and resolve your complaint. But this takes time and time is valuable, due to this many consumers don’t bother to take the route of a consumer court as they believe that it is a hassle to file a complaint in court, physically attend court sessions and bear with adjournments etc. A consumer who values time more than money will decide to skip this hassle and move on with life. This makes the companies complacent as they are aware that consumers don’t use the power of consumer court. The companies therefore don’t have any incentive to proactively solve the issues unless they are driven to respond either due to fear of courts or due to the fact they are losing business due to bad word-of-mouth publicity. ShoutOut is a new service which aims to force companies to act on the consumer’s problem out of fear arising from negative word-of-mouth publicity. By using power of internet, ShoutOut amplifies word-of-mouth effect so that people can easily find others’ complaints against any company by simply searching on Google (or any search engine).
What are so many existing consumer complaints websites do in India?
There are many websites in India claiming to be public complaints board viz. consumercomplaints.in, grahakseva.com, consumercourtforum.in. They accept complaints from the public but do not call back the consumers. All of them provide an open website to public for complaining against any brand or service and this comes with its own set of problems:
- The consumers may not provide all information which is necessary for the companies to resolve the complaint. This would mean that companies cannot act on the complaint although they can view the complaint on these websites.
- The system can be misused by competing companies to lodge false complaints using anonymous names. This would mean that the complaints are not trust-worthy.
They are ineffective in adding value to the ecosystem since people cannot verify if consumer is a real person and complaint text is trust-worthy. Therefore companies can ignore them by claiming that those complaints are false.
How is ShoutOut different?
Consumers will now be able to submit complaints against any brand or service on the ShoutOut website www.shoutout.co.in by providing product name, company name, details of the actual complaint along with personal mobile number. The website is open to anyone who wants to submit a complaint against any brand or service in India. ShoutOut staff takes pains to ensure that all information provided in the complaint is genuine by calling back the person who has logged the complaint. During this call, the ShoutOut staff gathers information from the consumer to verify if the complainant is real. ShoutOut staff also ensures that the complaint has all relevant objective details so that the company can resolve the issue. If the complainant is not reachable on phone or if the complaint is not genuine, then the complaint is rejected by the ShoutOut staff with appropriate explanations given to the complainant. After all this, the complaint is published on the ShoutOut website so that other consumers (and companies) can find the complaint using the internet. On its part, ShoutOut ensures that the complaints get the right visibility on the internet by employing search engine marketing techniques. Since all complaints are validated by ShoutOut staff before publishing, we have only trust-worthy complaints which are seen by other consumers. This leads to negative publicity for the companies as many consumers may decide to shun using a service or buying a product based on these complaints.
As more and more consumers submit complaints on ShoutOut website, companies will be forced to wake up and respond to the complaints since it affects their online brand reputation and gives them negative publicity. It also sends wrong signals to people who research internet before making a buying decision. As we know, more and more people are now using internet to read blogs and others’ opinions before buying anything. The companies would then want to get in touch with the complainants to resolve the complaints. They will contact ShoutOut to get contact details of the consumer. This is where ShoutOut will build relationship with companies. ShoutOut team will then connect the consumer with the company official. Over time, ShoutOut will work with many companies to make life of consumers easier. Thus ShoutOut aims to provide an easy solution to the problems faced by Indian consumers by using the power of internet. In summary, ShoutOut is a mass consumer movement which will become more effective by participation from you and I, the consumers in India.
Now that you know what ShoutOut is all about, here are few clarifications from frequently asked questions:
1. ShoutOut doesn’t promise to follow-up on individual complaints, because it is not feasible to resolve all complaints given the relaxed attitude of companies and consumer court situation in India. ShoutOut doesn’t believe in promising what is not practically feasible.
2. ShoutOut doesn’t accept complaints against government bodies and other personal complaints.
Know more about the founders of ShoutOut from here http://shoutout.co.in/about-founders.html